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An Interdisciplinary Series in European Culture, History

and Politics

Executive Editor
Menno Spiering, University of Amsterdam

Series Editors
Robert Harmsen, The Queen’s University of Belfast
Joep Leerssen, University of Amsterdam
Menno Spiering, University of Amsterdam
Thomas M. Wilson, Binghamton University,
State University of New York
An Interdisciplinary Series in European Culture, History
and Politics


editing the nation’s memory:

textual scholarship and nation-building
in Nineteenth-century europe

Edited by
Dirk Van Hulle and Joep Leerssen

Amsterdam - New York, NY 2008

The editors wish to thank the European Science Foundation for
funding the Exploratory Workshop ‘From Europe to nations and back
again: Scholarly editing between the universal appeal of the classics and
the national pasts’ (Amsterdam, December 2005), from which this
volume has emerged.

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ISBN: 978-90-420-2484-7
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Printed in The Netherlands

European Studies is published several times a year. Each issue is dedicated

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Contributors approach the theme from a wide range of disciplinary and,
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Authors in this volume 9

Introduction: Philology and the European Construction
of National Literatures 13




A Darwinian Change in European Editorial Thinking 31
The Angel of Philology 45


Slovene Text Editions, Slavic Philology and Nation-Building 65

Inscribing Orality: The First Folklore Editions in the Baltic States 79
Scania Province Law and Nation-Building in Scandinavia 91
Welsh Literary History and the Making of
‘The Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales’ 109
John O’Donovan’s Edition of the Annals of the Four Masters:
An Irish Classic? 129

After the Lisbon Earthquake: Reassembling History 151
Medieval Heritage in the Beginnings of Modern Catalan Literature,
1780-1841 169
The Troubadours and the French State 185

The Case of Beowulf 223
Walther von der Vogelweide and Early-Nineteenth-
Century Learning 241
Hoffmann von Fallersleben and Medieval Dutch Folksong 255
Private to Public: Book Collecting and Philology in
Early-Independent Belgium (1830-1880) 271
Stages in the Development of Dutch Literary Historicism 287
The Nation’s Canon and the Book Trade 305

THOMAS BEIN is professor for medieval German literature and ‘Kultur-

und mediengeschichtliche Textwissenschaft’ at the RWTH Aachen Uni-
versity. His areas of interest are twelfth- and thirteenth-century verse,
Walther von der Vogelweide, scholarly editing, didactics, philology and
the new media.
HERMAN BRINKMAN is senior researcher at the Huygens Institute (Royal
Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences), The Hague (Netherlands).
He works on Dutch literature of the later Middle Ages and has brought
out editions of the Van Hulthem and Comburg miscellanies. At present
he is preparing, in collaboration with Ike de Loos, a critical edition of the
Gruuthuse Manuscript, the oldest and by far the richest collection of
medieval Dutch poems and songs that have been preserved with their
original melodies.
MARY-ANN CONSTANTINE’s publications include Breton Ballads (1996)
and, with Gerald Porter, Fragments and Meaning in Traditional Song (2003).
Since 2002 she has led the research project ‘Iolo Morganwg and the
Romantic Tradition in Wales’ based at the University of Wales Centre
for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies in Aberystwyth. Her most recent
book is The Truth Against the World: Iolo Morganwg and Romantic Forgery
BERNADETTE CUNNINGHAM is Deputy Librarian at the Royal Irish
Academy. She is author of The World of Geoffrey Keating (2000), and
co-author with Raymond Gillespie of Stories from Gaelic Ireland: Micro-
histories from the Sixteenth-Century Irish Annals (2003).
JOÃO DIONÍSIO is professor of Portuguese Medieval Literature and
Textual Criticism at the University of Lisbon. He has brought out text
editions of English and of Portuguese poetry, and is currently working
on an electronic edition of the late medieval treatise Leal Conselheiro, by
King D. Duarte (1391-1435).
DARKO DOLINAR is head of the Institute of Slovene Literature and
Literary Studies at the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts
(Ljubljana). He has published widely on literary theory and methodology,
an on the history of literary scholarship in Slovenia. He was involved as
editor or co-editor in the journal Primerjalna književnost (Comparative
literature, 1978-1997) and the monograph series Literarni leksikon
(1980-2001) and Studia litteraria (since 2004).

PAULA HENRIKSON, currently a postdoctoral fellow at Uppsala Univer-

sity, is working on a project about the history of editorial scholarship in
Sweden. Among her publications are the books Dramatikern Stagnelius
(2004) and Textkritisk utgivning. Råd och riktlinjer (2007). She also works as
editor in the editorial society Svenska Vitterhetssamfundet.
DIRK VAN HULLE teaches English literature at the University of Ant-
werp. He is an editor of the Journal of Beckett Studies and Genetic Joyce Stud-
ies, and maintains the Beckett society’s Endpage (
He is the author of Textual Awareness (2004) and Manuscript Genetics, Joyce’s
Know-How, Beckett’s Nohow (2008). He is co-director of the Beckett Digital
Manuscript Project.
JOEP LEERSSEN holds the Chair of Modern European Literature at the
University of Amsterdam. His work on early cultural nationalism across
Europe includes books like De bronnen van het vaderland (2006) and Na-
tional Thought in Europe (2nd ed. 2008).
GEERT LERNOUT teaches Comparative Literature at the University of
Antwerp, where he is director of the Joyce Center. He has published
books on Joyce, Hölderlin, Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’, the history of
the book, the bible. With Vincent Deane and Daniel Ferrer he is editor
of the Finnegans Wake Notebooks at Buffalo. He is a member of the Aca-
demia Europaea.
PHILIPPE MARTEL is researcher at the CNRS and lectures in Occitan
Civilisation at Montpellier University. His research focuses on Southern
French cultural history, in particular aspects involving Occitan revival-
ism. Among his publications are Les Cathares et l’histoire (2002) and L’école
française et l’occitan, le sourd et le bègue (2007).
MARITA MATHIJSEN is Professor of Dutch Literature at the University of
Amsterdam. She is mainly concerned with nineteenth-century literature
and editorial scholarship. Among her books are De gemaskerde eeuw (2002),
Nederlandse literatuur in de Romantiek (2004) and the standard Dutch intro-
duction to textual scholarship Naar de letter (3rd ed. 2003). She leads a
research group ‘The construction of the literary past (1750-1850)’.
JAN PAUWELS has been on the staff of the Royal Library in Brussels as
Chief Acquisitions and Keeper of nineteenth- and twentieth-century
printed books from 2004 onwards. Currently, he is seconded as spokes-
person to the federal Secretary of State for Transport and Mobility.

TOM SHIPPEY has recently retired from the Walter J. Ong Chair at Saint
Louis University. Among his publications are The Critical Heritage: Beowulf
(co-edited with Andreas Haarder, 1998), and an edited volume of essays
on The Shadow-walkers: Jacob Grimm’s mythology of the monstrous (2005). A
volume of essays in his honour has appeared as Constructing Nations,
Reconstructing Myths (2007), which also focuses on the effects of the philo-
logical revolution inaugurated by Grimm. He intends to continue this
theme with further publications on medievalism and nationalist philol-
PAULIUS VAIDOTAS SUBACIUS is associate professor in literary theory at
Vilnius University and a member of the Lithuanian Catholic Academy of
Science. Member of the board of the European Society for Textual
Scholarship. He has published numerous monographs, collections and
articles in the areas of literature, history, religion, and academic politics.
His main interest is in the biographical, social and religious context of
textual production. He is now working on an edition of Antanas Ba-
ranauskas’s poetry.
MAGÍ SUNYER I MOLNÉ is lecturer in Catalan literature at the Rovira i
Virgili University in Tarragona (Catalonia). He has published poetry,
fiction and a contemporary tragedy. Among his scholarly work is a col-
lection on the reprinting of classic Catalan texts, as well as numerous
studies on aspects of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Catalan litera-
ture, with particular emphasis on Modernism and national myths. His
book Els mites nacionalistes Catalans appeared in 2006.
EUROPEAN STUDIES 26 (2008): 13-27




Joep Leerssen

The Language/Literature/Nationality Paradigm

Culture lies at the heart of our idea of the nation-state, and thus at the
heart of our idea of Europe’s national diversity. While the nation-state
derives the state’s constitutional sovereignty from a specifically national
mandate, ‘the nation’ invoked is not only a social idea (the body politic
joined in a citizenry) but crucially also a cultural one – those people
sharing a common set of historical memories and a common culture.
Culture, in turn, has from the Romantic period onwards been insis-
tently linked to the idea of a shared language, and considered as express-
ing itself most authentically in the oral and written literature in that lan-
guage (Leerssen 2006b). Thus, the national specificity of the European
states (and, in the general perception, one of the main reasons why the
European Union, though similar in demographic and economic size, can
never be as seamlessly integrated as the USA) resides in their cul-
tural/linguistic foundation.
While this idea is so universally current as to be almost a matter of
self-evidence, it is in fact the result of a scholarly paradigm which,
though apparently highly academic in nature, the province of the rarefied
realm of philology, turns out to have been intricately intertwined, ever
since its incipience around 1800, with the rise and dominance of Euro-
pean nationalism. This volume explores the rise of this philological
model of nationalities defined in their languages and expressing them-
selves in their literatures.
14 European Studies

We tend to view Europe’s literary landscape implicitly as a set of

various literatures in different languages; each European language ex-
pressing itself in its ‘own’ literature. By the same token, each European
literature so defined forms the nation’s collective memory, its premier
cultural inheritance with its own history, its own inner consistency link-
ing texts from succeeding centuries by different authors into a distinct
corpus and tradition. Language and literature thus closely intertwined
form the very backbone of the nation’s identity and its persistence across
the generations.
The template of national specificity projected onto Europe’s literary
traditions is already signalled by the fact that they are periodized, not
according to general historical faultlines (i.e. the invention of Guten-
berg’s printing press, or the invention of woodpulp paper and other
technological advances in printing and book production between 1800
and 1840), but along country- or language-specific lines. Often the major
historical caesuras of the literary traditions are linked to the great linguis-
tic shifts. Anglo-Saxon (or Old English), Middle English and Early Mod-
ern English literature are distinguished from each other on the basis of
the major transitions and discontinuities that divide the linguistic forms
of Old, Middle and Early Modern English. The great difference between
Malory and Spenser, it would seem, is that one wrote before, the other
after the Great Vowel Shift. Similar linguistically-based periodizations
can be noted for other languages like Gaelic and German. This has
something to do, obviously, with the competence of the philologist
studying the texts in question, much as in literary studies it is a truth
universally acknowledged that the only way to understanding a text is by
reading it in the original: reading the literature requires knowing the
language. As a result, our education system has traditionally linked the
two in the philological model of the Siamese Twins called Lang and Lit.
The Lang-Lit model has long been a serviceable template for aca-
demic work, but its limitations have over the last decades become in-
creasingly obvious. It had long been realized that many authors and
corpuses are ambiguous in their linguistic appurtenance: Milton writing
in Latin and English, Nabokov in Russian and English. The tradition of
Medieval Latin and Neo-Latin; the cases of authors from bilingual coun-
tries rooted in more than one linguistic tradition (Ireland, Belgium, Fin-
land, Switzerland); the case of languages stretching over different societ-
ies, different continents even, with different social contexts and literary
traditions (French, English, Spanish): all that is an ongoing reminder that

the criterion of language is not as universally categorical for the classifi-

cation of literature as it would seem at first sight. In the last decades,
new disciplines and specialisms have accordingly grouped literary cor-
puses in new ways, often combining texts from different languages into
newly-constituted aggregates: from area studies and postcolonial studies
to ‘period’ studies. It is now readily admitted that Chaucer and Boccaccio
have, across the English-Italian linguistic divide, more in common than
Chaucer and Galsworthy, or Boccaccio and D’Annunzio.
At the same time it has become increasingly obvious that the Lang-Lit
paradigm is of relatively modern vintage. Although our literary histories
all work on its basis, and accordingly trace a single national literature
back to its earliest beginnings in the medieval vernacular (thus making it
seem that these traditions always had an autonomous identity for as long
as we can retrace the written evidence), the insight is now gaining ground
that this is in fact an anachronistic retroprojection. The meaning of the
term ‘literature’ was wholly different before Romanticism, its old sense
being perhaps best illustrated by William Godwin’s definition, in the
Inquiry into Political Justice of 1793, of literature as ‘the diffusion of knowl-
edge through the medium of discussion, whether written or oral’. Simi-
larly, the compartmentalization of literature on the basis of language was
wholly different the further we travel back in history. It is safe to say that
‘national’ or language-based categorizations of literary corpuses were
unimportant in the seventeenth century, let alone earlier. The word litera-
ture was often used as a singulare tantum, in the sense of learning as ex-
pressed in writing, and nationally or linguistically a-specific. At most there
was a distinction between the literature of classical antiquity and that of
modern times, but the literary canon was blithely multilingual and uni-
versalist, embracing Homer, Virgil, Dante, Cervantes and Shakespeare.
As Jorge Luis Borges phrased it, this classical view saw the distinction
between people and centuries as incidental, and literature was always in
the singular.1
The question of nationality and universalism in pre-Romantic Euro-
pean literature is of course enormously complex, and can only be sketch-
ily outlined here. By all accounts, however, something like a paradigm
shift occurred in that period between 1760 and 1840 that was marked by
a number of concurrent revolutionary changes – such as the democratic

Borges 1930: ‘Para el concepto clásico, la pluralidad de los hombres y de los
tiempos es accesoria, la literatura es siempre una sola’.
16 European Studies

revolutions of 1776 and 1789, the end of the ancien régime, the Industrial
Revolution (which affected book production as much as other aspects of
life) and the rise of Romanticism. For our present purpose, it is useful to
draw attention to two further paradigm shifts: the rise of comparatism,
and the rise of historicism. By comparatism I mean that the philosophical
and anthropological questions which had been addressed in the abstract
in the Enlightenment decades (the study of Man, the origin of Language,
the meaning of History) was turned inside-out and became a compara-
tive study of differentiations: anthropology became a comparative-ethno-
graphical study of the differences between races and societies; the study
of the origin of Language and Culture was, following Herder, turned into
a comparative calibration of the diversity between languages and be-
tween cultures; and the philosophical history-writing of Hume, Voltaire
and Gibbon (what Bolingbroke called ‘Philosophy teaching by example’)
abandoned its political emphasis on succeeding dynasties and rulers, and
anchored itself in the demotic track record of the nation’s collective
experience (cf. generally Leerssen 2006).
Historicism, for its part, was the investigation of the past, not as a
philosophical exemplum or as antiquarian curio, but as a challenging ex-
pansion of one’s mental and cultural frame of reference, and as a contin-
uous dynamics of processes of growth, decay, conflict and resolution. If
any continuity existed between past and present, it was not so much a
moral or philosophical one as a national-anthropological one, showing
the nation’s evolution from primitive origins to modern maturity (or
decay), and stressing the need not to lose the purity of the nation’s pri-
meval roots and energies from sight amidst the complexities of the pres-
ent (cf. generally Leerssen 2004a and 2004b).
These developments all of them reflect the belated influence of
Giambattista Vico’s Scienza Nuova of 1724. A gnomic, wayward and
difficult book (which it unavoidably was, since it had no pre-existing
model to rely on), the Scienza Nuova had spelled out the agenda for some-
thing which Vico called by the old-fashioned Greek word for ‘erudition’,
filologia, but which he gave a very specific new meaning by opposing it to
philosophy. Whereas philosophy, for Vico, meant the investigation of the
truths that are greater than man (and therefore, in the final analysis, not
completely knowable by man), philology investigates the certainties that
are a product of the human mind, the factual or ‘constructed truth’ (verum
factum), and which man may understand as fully as a watchmaker knows
the clocks he has made. Philology dealt, then, with the sum total of man-

made certainties, all things by which humans make their world recogniz-
able, knowable and predictable – which is tantamount to saying that
philology deals with culture. Aspects of culture are, for Vico: mythology
(a deferential way of saying that religion, too, is a cultural praxis provid-
ing certainties), history, manners and customs, law, literature and lan-
Vico was among the first European thinkers to formulate the idea, so
popular from Romanticism onwards, that these aspects of culture are all
derived from a single primitive ethnic self-invention and self-articulation.
Law-makers, poets and priests have aboriginally one and the same func-
tion. It is for that reason that ancient laws jointly address civic and theo-
logical issues, and are often couched in a poetic language; it is for this
reason that mythology is so often expressed through the poetic medium
of epic. And that in turn means that all the branches of learning dealing
with these matters can be jointly linked (we would call it ‘interdisciplin-
ary’ nowadays) in an endeavour that Vico already called philological. Al-
though Vico himself remained obscure during his lifetime and for a long
time after his death, and became famous only in the 1820s, his influence
was felt everywhere. The classical scholar August Boeckh defined philol-
ogy without once mentioning Vico, but in a sweeping anthropological
phrase that would have delighted the author of the Scienza nuova: as the
Erkenntnis des Erkannten, the ‘understanding of our understanding’.2
The spread of Vico-style philology triggered many important schol-
arly developments. For one thing, it resulted in the nineteenth-century
structural-comparative study of mythology. Its concerns are also notice-
able in the new discipline of legal history (and legal historicism) as
opened up by Friedrich Carl von Savigny (1779-1861), the great legal
historian and mentor of young Jacob Grimm. Legal history, nowadays a
fairly marginal specialism, was at the centre of jurisprudence before the
introduction of Napoleonic legislation in Europe: the full record of legal
wisdom constituted the tradition that was invoked for the settlement of
disputes, and therefore the record-keeping of ancient case law was at the
heart of the legal profession and made it the lodestar for textual source-
editing in the course of the eighteenth century. The major philological

On the conceptual history of ‘philology’, including the impact of Vico: Hummel
2000. On Vico: Berlin 2003. The recursive phraseology ‘Erkenntnis des Erkannten’
aptly indicates the self-reflexive dimension of a Vicoesque notion of culture and of
philology (as both a praxis and a reflection on that praxis), rendering it systemically
complex and autopoetic.
18 European Studies

source editions of the nineteenth century would as a result often have a

jurisprudential slant or interest. In this connection the Swedish edition of
old law texts (Sweriges gamla lagar) by H.S. Collin and C.J. Schlyter
(1827ff.) deserves mention, which had, for a spin-off effect, a dictionary
of old Swedish (Ordbok till samlingen af Sweriges gamla lagar, 1877) by way
of a lexicographical companion volume. The established tradition of
legal historicism gained new impetus because laws, in the Romantic view
as represented by Savigny, were not just instruments for conflict manage-
ment, but expressions of the morality of the nation-at-large. It was this
anthropological view which led scholars (like Savigny’s erstwhile student
and assistant Grimm, who considered legal history an integral part of
Germanistik) to focus on the cross-currents between law, moral outlook,
vocabulary and literary expression (cf. Schmidt-Wiegand 1987). This or-
ganicist and Vicoesque focus can also be noticed in the enormous up-
surge, between 1800 and 1830, of philology sensu stricto, that is to say: the
structural-comparative and historicist study of variants in languages,
texts and literatures. In other words, the rise of the Lang-Lit paradigm of
national literatures and national literary histories can be dated from this

From Reinventory to Reinvention: The Institutional Context

None of this would have been possible merely as a result of intellectual
ratiocination. The rise of philology was also prepared by a slow but
accelerating process of textual availability and anamnesis. By the mid-
eighteenth century, much of the medieval textual record of Europe’s
vernaculars had fallen into oblivion or neglect. To be sure, this neglect
was not total: there were bibliophiles and antiquaries who collected,
studied and/or printed medieval literature – one thinks for example of
the Marquis de Paulmy, whose private library was the core of the
present-day Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, and whose collection Mélanges tirées
d’une grande bibliothèque appeared in no less than 69 volumes between
1779-1788. Other examples include the antiquary and librarian Legrand
d’Aussy; or the great Scandinavian collector Arni Magnusson, and the
editions of Minnesang and Nibelungen material by Bodmer and
Breitinger in 1757.
To some extent, such activities were in the antiquarian mode, and can
be aligned with ballad editions like the Reliques of Ancient English Poetry by
Bishop Percy (1765); to some extent, again, they belong to a tradition of

ecclesiastical and legal scholarship that had always been concerned with
collecting, collating and compiling ancient source material. Literary com-
pendia and repertories in the eighteenth century can be encountered as
part of the church-historical and hagiographical school of the Bollandists
and Jean Mabillon, the founder of diplomatics (1632-1707), and above
all, as part of the legal-historical method, so influential all over Europe,
of Luigi Muratori (1652-1750), the founder of modern historical source
criticism and a lodestar of text-editorial method.
It would be simplistic, then, given all these scholarly activities, to
pretend that the philologists of the Romantic generation ‘invented’ the
historical method or the craft of text-editing, or even that it was they,
and they alone, who rediscovered the Middle Ages after centuries of total
amnesia. The editorial work of Correia da Serra in Portugal is in many
ways the continuation of an older eighteenth-century pattern. In North-
Western Europe, the antiquarianism of Iolo Morganwg and Theophilus
O’Flanagan (including their Macphersonesque penchant for fabricating
evidence where needed) forms the stepping-stone for the more philologi-
cal work of Thomas Price and John O’Donovan. While in most of West-
ern Europe, philology was professionalizing, the edition of oral material
in the Finnish-Baltic area remained, well into the century, the work of
amateur investigators like Elias Lönnrot and Krisjanis Baron. But on the
whole, all parts of Europe participate, whatever the variables of the local
situation, in an undeniable qualitative and quantitative leap after 1770,
and again after 1800, and it involved the matter of availability. Texts
were becoming available to an unprecedented degree. The eighteenth-
century scholars and antiquaries had worked on the basis of textual
material that was often in private hands. The large ballad MS from which
Bishop Percy published the Reliques was a fortuitous find (cf. Groom
1999); the grande bibliothèque of Paulmy and the collection of Arni
Magnusson were privately-owned. At best, text editions made use of
semi-public collections in the hands of monarchs, municipalities or mon-
asteries, to which it was a privilege to enjoy access. Bodmer’s first tenta-
tive edition of the Nibelungen material, for instance, was based on a
manuscript spotted in the private collection of Count Hohenems two
years previously.
Manuscript-collecting was a pursuit for the educated elite. We see
antiquaries like James Ussher, Sir James Ware, and Edward Lhuyd ac-
quire important collections of Gaelic manuscripts between 1620 and
1720; we also see how after their deaths, these collections are either sold
20 European Studies

off to other collectors (giving rise to named MS corpuses such as the

Sebright MSS or the Stowe MSS), or else acquired by corporate bodies
such as Trinity College Dublin (in the case of the Ussher MSS) or the
Bodleian (Lhuyd was curator of the Ashmolean).3 Once materials drift
into institutional ownership, they usually stay there; the instances of
university libraries selling material to private collectors are rare indeed.
There is then, a tendency over the eighteenth and nineteenth century for
private collections to be siphoned off into the institutional, public
sphere. The manuscript holdings of the British Library still carry the
names of the original private-individual collections which its absorbed in
these decades: Royal MSS, Stowe MSS, Cotton, Rawlinson. (The sole
surviving manuscript of Beowulf, first spotted in the late eighteenth cen-
tury, is accordingly still known by its old catalogue marker ‘Cotton
On the Continent, this public siphoning of MS collections abruptly
accelerates after 1770s with the break-up of the old monastic collections.
The trend can be first spotted with the suppression of the Jesuits in the
1770s: their library in Lisbon becomes the core, eventually, of the Lisbon
university library, and in the process important medieval manuscripts like
the Cancioneiro da Ajuda come to light (cf. Michaëlis 1904). A similar
process occurs when in the Holy Roman Empire, monastic fiefs are
secularized and mediatized as a result of the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss
of 1803. Out of the monasteries of Bavaria, an enormous damburst of
manuscript material is concentrated into the Munich court library around
1803, which as a result almost overnight became the most important re-
pository of medieval literature after Paris, Vienna and the Vatican
(Hacker 2000). The Carmina Burana of Benediktbeuren surfaced in this
process. Likewise, the Comburg MS of the Reynard the Fox fable was
discovered when that monastery was dissolved and its library was relo-
cated to, and re-inventorized in, the Württemberg library at Stuttgart
(Brinkman & Schenkel 1997).
All this was dwarfed by the impact of the French Revolution and the
Napoleonic conquests. The Royal Library of Paris first became a Na-
tional, then an Imperial Library, and everywhere the conquering French
armies nationalized church establishments and sold off their property;
initially into private hands, from where the manuscripts prised loose

The vicissitudes of Irish MSS can be gathered from the introduction to Hancock
et al 1865-73; Love 1961; Ó Muraíle 1996.

from their century-old sequestration, drifted into the public domain over
the following decades. And even where libraries were not pillaged or
sold off (it was this that brought to light material as diverse as the medi-
eval Dutch Servatius Legend, by Veldeke, and the ancient Slavic Gospel
Book of Rheims), the French occupier would appoint officials in a bu-
reaucratic re-structuring which again often triggered re-inventories and
rediscoveries. The Biblioteca palatina in the Vatican Libraries is a case in
point: the old Court Library of the Palatinate, taken from Heidelberg as
war booty in the 1670s and donated to the Pope, was found around 1810
(by Gloeckle and Görres) to contain important treasures of medieval
German literature (cf. Görres 1955), and was eventually donated by the
Pope to Heidelberg University Library as part of the post-Napoleonic
settlements in 1818. Another case in point involves the appointment of
Angelo Mai (1782-1854) to the Biblioteca ambrosiana in Milan in 1811,
which resulted in the discovery important manuscript remains, Latin and
even Gothic.
One of the groundswell-changes of the eighteenth century involves
the development, traced by Jürgen Habermas (1990[1962]), of a ‘public
sphere’. In the professionalization of the pursuit of philology, this shift
makes itself clearly felt. The old patrons (like Kopitar’s patron Baron
Zois in Slovenia,4 or the church seminaries that spawned the priest-
scholars like José Correia de Serra, Josef Dobrovský and Angelo Mai)
were ceding their role to a new generation of university-trained and
academically-employed scholars; as a result, a good deal of generational
rivalry is seen where young generations are always ready to hurl the
reproach of amateurish dilettantism at their elders, thus taking the newly-
established high ground of a rigidly scientific methodology. That scien-
tific high ground goes together with a professionalization, that is to say:
a shift of philology from private hobby to publicly-funded discipline.5
The succession of philologists in their various generations is always one
of repudiation, driven by an ongoing urge to outgrow the credulity,
untrustworthiness and amateurish imprecision of the older generation.
What has not yet been traced in the cultural shift from private to
public in the emergence of the modern state is the transfer of ancient

Kopitar (1780-1844) was, with Dobrovský (1723-1859), the founder of modern
Slavic studies. On Kopitar and Zois, see Merchiers 2005. A good deal of interesting
material on Dobrovský is given in Keenan 2003.
An intermediary stage should not be overlooked: that of the sociable association
of private scholars into city academies or learned societies.
22 European Studies

literary material into that public sphere – a transfer which took place
everywhere, which made medieval vernacular literature accessible to an
unprecedented degree and made the entire enterprise of the emerging
philology possible in the first place. Practically all the great philologists
of this generation started their career as archivists and librarians, were
part of this vast, slow landslide of texts from private hands into public
ownership. After all, what else does the word publish – which we so
thoughtlessly use for the transition from handwritten to printed, from
single- to multiple-copy – mean than making a text public?

Nation-Building, National Canons, National Rivalry

In many cases, the investigation and publication of the roots of Euro-
pean vernacular literatures was part of a nation-building process which
would in many cases lead to full-fledged nationalist, autonomist or sepa-
ratist movements. The many ‘minority’ literatures of Europe find their
roots and ambitions in these romantic-historicist decades: in Catalunya,
on the Balkans and in the Baltic. As such, editorial and philological
scholarship (or folklore research, in those cases where literary material
was transmitted orally rather than in writing) forms part of what
Miroslav Hroch (1985) has identified as the incipient ‘phase A’ of na-
tional movements.6 How these incipiently national movements relate to
regional trends elsewhere (e.g., the relations between Celtic philology in
Brittany, in Wales and in Ireland, or the relations between the revival of
Jocs Florals in Catalan Barcelona and in Occitan Toulouse) remains a
challenging task for future researchers (cf. Leerssen 2006b). And even in
old-established states, the rediscovery of the literary past tended to inten-
sify national feeling, especially since many of the literary heirlooms that
were brought to light were contested between different modern coun-
Michel Foucault’s dictum (1979) that ‘first of all, texts are objects of
appropriation’ has no clearer demonstration than the publication of the
vernacular classics that occurred in these decades. The discoveries or
rediscoveries occured when Europe was witnessing the break-up of the
ancien régime and its reconstitution, following the bulldozings of Napo-

In Hroch’s analysis, national movements will typically start with an intellectual
rediscovery of the nation’s culture and traditions (phase A), will then move into a
phase of social assertions and demands for recognition (phase B), and then into a
phase of militant separatism (phase C).

leon, into a system of national states. However, the texts themselves

reflected a Europe which in the early Middle Ages was still organized in
tribal lordships, and in the later Middle Ages in feudal realms. The
reappropriation of those texts into a new context thus presented many
occasions for anachronism or categorical mismatch.
The most outstanding example is the case of Beowulf (cf. Shippey &
Haarder 1998): a text set on the North Sea coast between Northern
Germany and Southern Scandinavia, reflecting common-Germanic narra-
tive and mythological themes, written in Anglo-Saxon, produced and
kept in England, and first published in Copenhagen (1815) as a Poëma
Danicum dialecto Anglo-Saxonica. What ensued was not just a long scholarly
and editorial debate on the verbal substance and linguistic appurtenance
of the text, but also a long tug-of-war as to who could claim Beowulf as
‘their own’: Danes, English, or even Germans (who considered Beowulf to
reflect the tribal culture of Angles and Saxons then still established on
‘German’ soil, prior to their British de-Germanization). Relations be-
tween Nordic and German philologists7 were famously soured by the
contested territory that is, almost symbolically, Beowulf’s ancestral setting:
Schleswig-Holstein, over which two German-Danish wars were fought in
the course of the century.
Nor is Beowulf an unusual case. The French Chanson de Roland, imme-
diately hailed as ‘notre véritable épopée nationale’, was retrieved from the
Bodleian library.8 Medieval Portuguese chronicles were found in Paris.
The first edition of the Dutch Caerle ende Elegast was undertaken by the
German poet/philologist Hoffmann von Fallersleben, and appeared in
Breslau in 1824. The rise of Provençal and Spanish medieval philology
was famously influenced by German philologists from the school of
Grimm (who himself had edited a Silva de romances viejos in 1815). The
figure of the Grimm-adept Friedrich Diez (1794-1876) looms large over
the study of medieval Provençal.9 German-French rivalry, both geo-
politically and academically, was no less bitter than German-Danish
rivalry, and the strong-arm attitudes of the German philologists with
their ‘critical’ Lachmann-style editing techniques were much resented in

Cf. Leerssen 2006a: 180-185; Schmidt 1974 [1885]. On the national chauvinism of
Grimm and the Germanisten, also Fürbeth 1999, Netzer 2006.
The phrase ‘notre véritable épopée nationale’ is from a review in Le Monde, quoted
in the introduction to Michel 1869 [1837]. See also Brandsma 1996; Redman 1991;
Taylor 2001.
Espagne & Werner 1990; Gumbrecht 1986; Ridoux 2001.
24 European Studies

France. There was some friction in Provencal studies between the

nativist influence of François Raynouard (1761-1836) and the German
influence of Diez; and in the field of French epic poetry, the great medi-
evalist and French patriot Paulin Paris (1800-1881) contrasted the
present-day pre-eminence of German philologists with the erstwhile
primacy of French medieval literature:
Nous avions autrefois de grands poèmes, qui durant quatre cents ans ont
fait la plus importante étude de nos pères. Et durant ce période, l’Europe
entière, Allemagne, Angleterre, Espagne et Italie, n’ayant rien à nous
opposer de comparable, ni dans leurs fastes historiques ni dans l’expression
de ces fastes, s’est disputé la gloire secondaire de les traduire et de les
This rivalry was exacerbated when literary materials were by their nature
pre-national or trans-national, and could therefore be ‘claimed’ (Paris’s
possessive and antagonistic use of the first-person plural is telling) by
many heirs: themes like Reynard the Fox, the Charlemagne- and Roland
cycles, Arthurian material.
Thus the political rivalries and geopolitics of nineteenth-century
Europe (involving disputed areas such as Schleswig-Holstein or Alsace-
Lorraine) informs the philological claims to literary heirlooms. Even
more, it also underpins philological and editorial technique. The ‘critical’
style of textual editing, pioneered by the great classical scholar Carl
Lachmann (1793-1851), aligning various manuscripts into a family tree
or stemma of corresponding variants and derivations and distilling from
this an ideal Urtext, was considered typically ‘German’, linked to the
idealistic bent of German philosophy (always extrapolating from the
tangible towards the ideal). Much mistrusted was also the tendency to
extrapolate away from the actual text towards Stoffgeschichte or mythology,
to distill from the texts the disembodied narrative themes, myths and
tropes. The opposing tendency was accordingly considered anti-German:
to take, after careful comparison, the best available text and to edit that
in its integrity, with the variants merely noted by way of ancillary side
information. Later on, that technique was linked to the French anti-Lach-
mannian medievalist Joseph Bédier (1864-1938); but the anti-Lach-

Paris 1836: ‘We used to have great poems, which for four hundred years formed
the most important object of study of our forefathers. And during that entire period,
all of Europe, including Germany, England, Spain and Italy, having nothing compara-
ble to place alongside us, either in their historical deeds or in the expression of those
deeds, vied for the secondary honours of translation and imitation.’

mannian impetus predated Bédier and can already be found in the con-
flicting stances of Jacob Grimm and Paulin Paris over the notoriously
complex Reynard the Fox material.11

It is in this context that we must situate the rise of the national paradigm
in literary studies, and explain the intimate conjunction between nine-
teenth-century nation-building and the emergence of medievally-based
national-literary canons in Europe. The idea that literatures were cate-
gorized first and foremost by nationality, much as nationality itself was
first and foremost categorized by language, rises abruptly in these de-
cades: it is the influence of Herder’s cultural relativism combined with
the romantic historicism that flourished against Napoleon’s universal
There are mutliple ironies at work here. To begin with, the ‘national’
classics, now so firmly enshrined in our respective literary histories as the
figureheads of a firmly ‘national’ tradition, only emerged from obscurity
in the early nineteenth century. Again, although they themself were often
of indistinct national provenance, they were immediately subjected to
rivalling national appropriations. Thirdly, the national schools of philol-
ogy which were vying for the true ownership of these pre-national, medi-
eval texts and authors were themselves only crystallizing as the European
nation-states were taking firm shape in the post-Napoleonic decades. On
the whole, then, the process appears one where the very act of compe-
tition serves to give a clear outline to the competing parties, whose ri-
valry is subsequently retrojected into the past, and given historical roots,
by the act of claiming certain textual and cultural heirlooms as ‘theirs’ to
the exclusion of others. Much as, in the line of reasoning of Ernest
Gellner, Eric Hobsbawm and Benedict Anderson, national identities are
nationalist constructs, so too national literatures are philological con-

Berlin, Isaiah. 2003. Three Critics of the Enlightenment: Vico, Hamann, Herder (ed.
Henry Hardy). London: Pimlico.

On the Reynard quarrels, Leerssen 2006a: 75-95. On Lachmann and his influ-
ence: Lutz-Hensel 1975, Timpanaro 1963, Weigel 1989. On Bédier: Ridoux 2001.
26 European Studies

Borges, Jorge Luis. 1930. La postulación de la realidad. In Prosa Completa

1:155-60. 5 vols., Barcelona: Bruguera.
Brandsma, Frank. 1996. Het Chanson de Roland: Van vondst tot nationaal epos.
In De Middeleeuwen in de negentiende eeuw, ed. R.E.V. Stuip & C. Vellekoop,
155-168. Hilversum: Verloren.
Brinkman, Herman & Janny Schenkel (eds.). 1997. Het Comburgse handschrift, Hs.
Stuttgart, Württembergische Landesbibliothek, Cod. poet. et phil. 2. 22. 2 vols;
Hilversum: Verloren.
Espagne, Michel & Michael Werner (eds.). 1990. Philologiques I: Contribution à
l’histoire des disciplines littéraires en France et en Allemagne au XIXe siècle. Paris:
Maison des sciences de l’homme.
Foucault, Michel. 1979. What is an author? In Textual strategies: Perspectives in post-
structuralist criticism, ed. J. Harari, 141-160. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
Görres, Joseph. 1955. Geistesgeschichtliche und literarische Schriften (ed. L. Just). 2
vols; Köln: Gilde/Bachem.
Groom, Nick. 1999. The Making of Percy’s ‘Reliques’. Oxford: Clarendon.
Gumbrecht, Hans Ulrich. 1986. ‘Un souffle d’Allemagne ayant passé’: Friedrich
Diez, Gaston Paris, and the Genesis of National Philologies. Romance Philol-
ogy 40.1: 1-37
Fürbeth, Frank, et al. (eds.). 1999. Zur Geschichte und Problematik der National-
philologien in Europa. 150 Jahre Erste Germanistenversammlung in Frankfurt am
Main (1846-1996). Tübingen: Niemeyer.
Habermas, Jürgen. 1990 [1962]. Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit. Frankfurt/M:
Hacker, Rupert (ed.). 2000. Beiträge zur Geschichte der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek.
München: Saur.
Hancock, W. Neilson et al. (eds.). 1865-73. Ancient laws of Ireland. 6 vols; Dub-
Hroch, Mirsolav. 1985. Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe: A Compar-
ative Analysis of the Social Composition of Patriotic Groups among the Smaller Euro-
pean Nations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hummel, Pascale. 2003. Philologus auctor. Le philologue et son oeuvre. Bern: Lang.
Keenan, Edward L. 2003. Josef Dobrovský and the Origins of the Igor’ Tale. Cam-
bridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Leerssen, Joep. 2004a. Literary Historicism: Romanticism, Philologists, and the
Presence of the Past. Modern Language Quarterly 65.2: 221-43.
Leerssen, Joep. 2004b. Ossian and the Rise of Literary Historicism. In The
Reception of Ossian in Europe, ed. H. Gaskill, 109-125. London: Continuum.
Leerssen, Joep. 2006a. De bronnen van het vaderland: Taal, literatuur en de afbakening
van Nederland, 1806-1890. Nijmegen: Vantilt.
Leerssen, Joep. 2006b. National Thought in Europe: A Cultural History. Amster-
dam: Amsterdam University Press.

Leerssen, Joep. 2006c. Nationalism and the Cultivation of Culture. Nations and
Nationalism 12.4: 559-578.
Love, Walter D. 1961. Edmund Burke, Charles Vallancey, and the Sebright
manuscripts. Hermathena 95: 21-35.
Lutz-Hensel, Magdalene. 1975. Prinzipien der ersten textkritischen Editionen
mittelhochdeutscher Dichtung: Brüder Grimm, Benecke, Lachmann. Eine methoden-
kritische Analyse. Berlin: Erich Schmidt.
Merchiers, Ingrid. 2005. Cultural Nationalism in the South Slav Habsburg
Lands in the Early Nineteenth Century: The Scholarly Network of Jernej
Kopitar (1780-1844). Doctoral thesis, Gent: Universiteit Gent.
Michaëlis de Vasconcellos, Carolina. 1904. ‘Resenha bibliographica’. In Cancio-
neiro da Ajuda. Edição critica e commentada, 1-53. Halle/S: Niemeyer.
Michel, Francisque (ed.), 1869 [1837]. La Chanson de Roland et le Roman de
Roncevaux des XIIe et XIIIe siècles; publiés pour la première fois d’après les manuscrit
de la bibliothèque Bodléienne à Oxford et de la Bibliothèque Impériale. Paris.
Netzer, Katinka. 2006. Wissenschaft aus nationaler Sehnsucht: Verhandlungen der
Germanisten 1846 und 1847. Heidelberg: Winter.
Ó Muraíle, Nollaig. 1996. The celebrated antiquary Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh
(c.1600-1671), his lineage, life and learning. Maynooth: An Sagart.
Paris, Paulin (ed.). 1832. Li romans de Berte aus grans piés, précédé d’une dissertation
sur les romans des Douze Pairs. Paris.
Redman, Harry, jr. 1991. The Roland Legend in Nineteenth-Century French Literature.
Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky.
Ridoux, Charles. 2001. Évolution des études médiévales en France de 1860 à 1914.
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EUROPEAN STUDIES 26 (2008): 31-43



Dirk Van Hulle

While most European editors in the so-called Sattelzeit (the period
leading up to and following after the French Revolution) were preoc-
cupied with establishing and fixating national Urtexts in the service of
nation-building, authors became increasingly aware of the literary
creation as a process and started preserving their rough drafts and
manuscripts. This trend prefigured a Darwinian change in editorial
thinking: from an essentialist approach to a new focus on gestations
and processes, marked by an acceptance of imperfection and an ap-
preciation of the value of ‘mistakes’ as a crucial element in the dy-
namics of writing.

Scholarly editing in the vernacular has had a considerable cultural and

social impact on nation building in different language areas within Eu-
rope. Apart from the spatial aspect of this phenomenon, it is also possible
to trace a double movement on the temporal axis. The first movement is a
tendency from editing as a ‘European’ enterprise to national interests.1
The second movement is the development of scholarly editing in the
wake of the so-called Sattelzeit. This period is marked by an interesting
side effect: the link between scholarly editing and nation building proves
to be bidirectional, since nation building in its turn also had an impact on
scholarly editing, resulting in the development of different national edito-

See Geert Lernout’s contribution in this volume.
32 Dirk Van Hulle

rial ‘schools’.2 To try and analyse this development, this article focuses
on three schools: the German, the French, and the Anglo-American
As Thomas Bein points out,3 Karl Lachmann was not the only im-
portant figure in the foundation of the German school. Sebastiano Tim-
panaro notes that the Lachmannian method had been prepared by many
other philologists, such as Carl Gottlob Zumpt, Johan Nicolai Madvig,
Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl, and Friedrich August Wolf (Timpanaro 1971,
42; 69). More specifically, they prepared the genealogical division of the
manuscripts and the identification of common ‘ancestors’ by arranging
versions in a kind of family tree of textual descent. Lachmann started
applying his method not only to classical authors and medieval texts, but
also to works by modern authors such as Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
(edited between 1838 and 1840). However, Lachmann’s method was not
designed to cope with autograph manuscripts, drafts and genetic variants
(changes made by the author himself during the process of writing and
revising). His genealogical method focused on transmissional variants
This is interesting because it indicates the impact of the ‘Sattelzeit’
phenomenon on scholarly editing: editing was mainly regarded – at least
by Lachmannians – as a tool to provide the German-speaking audience
with the stable, definitive text of ‘national’ poets. After Lessing, Schiller
and Goethe followed in the second half of the nineteenth century. Karl
Goedeke’s edition of Schiller’s Sämtliche Schriften (1867-76) and the
Weimar edition of Goethe’s works in 143 volumes, the so-called
‘Sophien-Ausgabe’ (1887-1919) represent two different tendencies in
German editorial theory, which Klaus Hurlebusch respectively calls ‘das
produktionsbezogene Editionskonzept’ and ‘das rezeptionsbezogene
Editionskonzept’ (Hurlebusch 1986, 22; see also Nutt-Kofoth 2000). As
Bodo Plachta points out, the publication of the ‘Sophien-Ausgabe’ of
Goethe’s oeuvre reflected the then prevailing view, which took for
granted that the basis of the edited text was the last version revised by
the author (‘Fassung letzter Hand’) or the ‘letztwillige Textrecension’ of
the final revised edition: this document is a sort of testament, according

For a survey of these schools in relation to twentieth-century literary geneses, see
Van Hulle 2004
See Thomas Bein’s contribution in this volume.

to Bernhard Suphan in the preface to the ‘Sophien-Ausgabe’, and as a

consequence, the editor was seen as the executor of the author’s last will.
If we may consider this to be an understandable consequence of the
editorial practices rooted in the period of nation building, it is also im-
portant to draw attention to another phenomenon that took place in the
same period and may have been equally, if not more decisive, in the
development of national ‘schools’ of scholarly editing. In Germany,
Goethe and Schiller were among the first authors who started preserving
their manuscripts in a systematic manner. This is indicative of a contem-
porary tendency that contrasts sharply with the desire to fix the old texts
that were employed to shape national identities.

The Revaluation of ‘Unfinished Business’

The renewed attention to the process as opposed to the finished product
was part of the cult of genius. In his Conjectures on Original Composition
(1759), Edward Young had claimed: ‘An Original may be said to be of a
vegetable nature; it rises spontaneously from the vital root of Genius’
(§43). If spontaneity is such an important element in the concept of
genius, it is only natural that the traces of that spontaneity are revaluated
as well. And indeed, while – on the one hand – editors in the early nine-
teenth century are mainly concerned with the retrieval of older, often
medieval, textual material in the European vernaculars and the increasing
national value of the literary heritage, writers themselves – on the other
hand – seem to be more concerned with the individual value of jottings,
notes, drafts and marginalia. The most famous example is probably
Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He used to jot down notes, not only in the
margins of his own books, but also in borrowed copies. For instance,
there are at least three known copies of the anthology Anderson’s British
Poets that contain notes by Coleridge. One of these must have been
Coleridge’s own copy, which he in his turn lent to his friend William
Wordsworth. The latter also added his own marginalia to the volume,
notably after reading Shakespeare’s sonnets. What takes place at this
point in the margins of this anthology is a magnificent clash of the Titans
of English poetry. Immediately after Shakespeare’s last sonnet Words-
worth adds a note in pencil, fiercely criticizing Shakespeare’s ‘Dark Lady’
sonnets: ‘These sonnets ^beginning at 127,^ to his Mistress, are worse
than a game at a puzzle-peg. They [are] abominably harsh obscure &
worthless. The others are for the most part much better, have many fine
34 Dirk Van Hulle

lines very fine lines & passages. They are also in many places warm with
passion. Their chief faults, and heavy ones they are, are sameness, te-
diousness, laboriousness, quaintness, & elaborate obscurity’ (Coleridge
1980, 42a). Whatever Coleridge may have thought when Wordsworth
returned the anthology, he would not have dreamt of erasing the pencil
marks. Instead, he added his own comments, expressing the wish (in a
kind of note to posterity) that Wordsworth’s marginalia should never be
removed: ‘I can by no means subscribe to the above pencil mark of W.
Wordsworth; which however, it is my wish, should never be erased. It is
his: & grievously am I mistaken, & deplorably will Englishmen have
degenerated, if the being his will not, ^in times to come,^ give it a Value’
(Coleridge 1980, 42a). A simple note in the margins of an anthology thus
marks the importance the Romantics attached to the spontaneous, un-
structured spur-of-the-moment flashes of insight, which contrast sharply
with the contemporary editorial concerns, focused on establishing and
fixating national ‘Urtexts’.
In France, Victor Hugo was one of the first authors who not only
systematically preserved his manuscripts (from the 1820s onward), but
also made a link between the individual, private, spontaneous aspect of
literary drafts and the ‘national’ value of the literary heritage. Apart from
medieval texts, modern manuscripts had national value as well, so Victor
Hugo donated his manuscripts to the national library of France. What
may at first sight seem to be yet another example of the Sattelzeit phe-
nomenon should however be nuanced, because Hugo saw this ‘national-
ist’ act as just a first step toward a European vision. In his testament
(1881) he wrote: ‘Je donne tous mes manuscrits et tout ce qui sera trouvé
écrit ou dessiné par moi à la bibliothèque nationale de Paris qui sera un
jour la bibliothèque des États-Unis d’Europe’.4
More than a century later, it seems irrelevant to speak of a European
library. If all the existing online library databases can be regarded as part
of one big library, this is a global, not a European endeavour. What
Hugo’s testament seems to be hinting at is a remnant of a nationally con-
ceived, Napoleonic Europe, in which all European countries would
constitute something like the greater banlieue of Paris.

Hugo in Biasi 2000, 13: ‘I donate all of my manuscripts and whatever will be
found that is either written or drawn by me to the national library of Paris, which one
day will be the library of the United States of Europe.’

French editorial theory in those days was closely related to the Ger-
man tradition. Romance philology was more or less introduced to the
French by a German scholar, Friedrich Diez. As Jean-Louis Lebrave has
pointed out, it was Victor Cousin who took up the task of developing a
French editorial school, by drawing attention to ‘the necessity of a new
edition of Pascal’s Pensées’. This was the topic of his report to the
Académie française in 1842 (Sur la nécessité d’une nouvelle édition des ‘Pensées’
de Pascal), in which he advocated the consultation of Pascal’s manu-
scripts, preserved at the national library. In his lecture, he explains that
numerous editions of Pascal’s Pensées succeed each other, but that none
of the editors takes the trouble of double-checking the manuscripts. The
autograph is available at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris; every editor
mentions it, but no-one consults it, Cousin complains (Cousin 1949, 109;
cf. Lebrave 1992, 58). This neglect is probably the result of an editorial
tradition that is so completely geared to the absence of autograph manu-
scripts that editors lose all common sense. Cousin’s rhetoric is quite
effective in that it draws attention to his contemporaries’ blind spot by
means of one simple rhetorical question: what would people say if
Plato’s original manuscripts were still preserved in a public library, but
editors would simply ignore it and continue copying their editions from
previous editions?
Among French scholars, there was a genuine admiration for the Ger-
man approach to philology. In 1864, Gaston Paris advocated a rap-
prochement between German and French scholarly editors. The posi-
tivism of philology was contrasted with the French tradition of the Belles
Lettres. But ironically this new editorial development toward a rapproche-
ment and toward an international dialogue was used to create national
monuments such as the collection Les Grands Écrivains de la France set up
by Hachette in 1862. The timid attempt to exchange ideas was inter-
rupted rather abruptly by the Franco-German war in 1870, resulting in
two divergent tendencies. On the one hand, there was the urge to out-
strip the Germans in their own field of expertise; on the other hand,
philology was increasingly regarded as the science of the enemy, which
resulted in a return to the Belles Lettres tradition. In editorial terms, this
implied a reaction against Lachmann, which led to Joseph Bédier’s so-
called ‘best text’ approach, based on the criterion of ‘good taste’. Michael
Werner explains how this war eventually resulted in a dichotomy that is
still noticeable today:
36 Dirk Van Hulle

Immerhin has sich auch in Frankreich somit ein typologischer Gegensatz

herausgebildet zwischen dem rhetorisch brillianten Interpreten einerseits,
der die literaturpolitische Bühne besetzt hält und auch über die Medien,
Publikationen mit hohen Auflagen in die Öffentlichkeit wirkt, und dem
Gelehrten andererseits, welcher weniger mit institutionellen Ehren bedacht,
ein entbehrsames Dasein im Stillen fristet, abseits der Pariser
Intellektuellen-Szene (...)5
In the Anglo-American tradition, the very notion of ‘best text’ was al-
ready questioned as early as 1756, when Samuel Johnson stated in his
Proposals for Printing, by Subscription, the Dramatick Works of William Shake-
no single edition will supply the reader with a text on which he can rely as
the best copy of the works of Shakespeare. The edition now proposed will at
least have this advantage over others. It will exhibit all the observable vari-
eties of all the copies that can be found, that, if the reader is not satisfied
with the editor’s determination, he may have the means of chusing better
for himself. (Johnson 1968, esp. 55-6, emphasis DVH)
As Peter Shillingsburg (2002) has pointed out, this is one of the causes
of the fundamental discrepancies between the German and the Anglo-
American editorial traditions. In the former tradition, the paradigm is
Goethe; in the latter, the paradigm is Shakespeare. The crucial problem
with Shakespeare is the lack of autograph manuscripts; the main diffi-
culty with Goethe’s works is the abundance of manuscript versions. As a
result of these contingencies the corresponding traditions of scholarly
editing have developed along divergent lines.

The Notion of ‘Process’

A better understanding of the cultural differences that have led to spe-
cific editorial approaches and traditions in the past may eventually result
in more cooperation in view of the future of European scholarly editing.
If we are willing to try and find a common ground and work towards a
rapprochement, a crucial concept in this effort is the notion of ‘process’.
This notion gradually became important to scholarly editing during and
Werner 1987, 141: ‘In any case, the result is the emergence in France of a typo-
logical contrast between on the one hand the rhetorically brilliant critic, who occupies
the literary scene and also operates in the public domain through mass media and
publications with high print runs, and on the other hand the scholar, who is given less
institutional esteem and leads a solitary existence in silence, far from the Parisian scene
of intellectuals.’

after the so-called Sattelzeit, which can be seen as the culmination of a

particular aspect of philology. Philology was shaped by the search for
common ancestors in ancient and medieval texts, as well as the produc-
tion of a reliable text of ‘God’s own words’, the Bible. This was a partic-
ularly teleological enterprise, in both a chronological and a counterclock-
wise direction. The search for the authentic, divine words is a quest in
the direction of an absolute origin. And, not unlike the biblical Genesis
(aimed at one goal: God’s satisfaction) the collation of variant readings
of existing copies had one teleological purpose: the constitution of one
reliable, definitive text of the Bible or any other Urtext.
When Johnson, in 1756, argues that ‘no single edition will supply the
reader with a text on which he can rely as the best copy of the works of
Shakespeare,’ this is indicative of an important change of mentality that
reflects the content of several literary and philosophical texts in the sec-
ond half of the eighteenth. For instance, in his famous Fragment 116,
published in Athenäum, Friedrich Schlegel wrote: ‘Die romantische Dicht-
art ist noch im Werden; ja das ist ihr eigentliches Wesen, dass sie ewig
nur werden, nie vollendet sein kann.’ Whereas the teleology of the Bibli-
cal Genesis shaped a particular way of thinking and editing in the pre-
Sattelzeit, the post-Sattelzeit mentality in scholarly editing may be charac-
terized by a gradual evolution toward a non-teleological approach along
the lines of evolutionary theory. As Robert M. Young points out, science
in the nineteenth century was very much preoccupied by issues of ‘origin’
– ‘the historicity of genesis of earth, life, mind, and society,’ (Young
1985, 638) and also of nations. This thesis seems to be confirmed by the
title of Charles Darwin’s most famous work. Darwin’s Origin of Species,
however, is not about the origin of the world. It is about process. And it
is not about proceeding towards a goal; it is non-teleological. The pro-
cess does not necessarily go anywhere, it simply goes ‘on’. If anything, it
undermines the idea that man is the culmination of creation. Darwin’s
theory is sometimes called the second Copernican revolution (Gruber
1974, 12). Copernicus showed that the universe does not revolve around
the earth; Darwin demonstrated that man is not the centre of biological
phenomena. His Origin of Species is not exclusively about the origin of our
species, but about the multiplication of species and the mechanism be-
hind it. This move away from anthropocentrism is already present in one
of his early notebooks: ‘It is absurd to talk of one animal being higher
than another. We consider those, where the cerebral structure, intellectual
38 Dirk Van Hulle

faculties, most developed, as highest. – A bee doubtless would where the

instincts are.’6
The Sattelzeit – as a period marking the beginnings of the so-called
‘modern world’ – may be seen as a period of radical changes of concepts
with implications for editorial theory as well. The notion of Sattelzeit,
coined by Reinhart Koselleck,7 literally means ‘saddle-period’, i.e. the
period that flanks the French Revolution by fifty years on either side.
The end of this period (1789 + 50) is marked by the gestation of Dar-
win’s theory of evolution, which mainly took shape in his notebooks
between 1837 and 1839.
Unlike most of his contemporaries, who ‘used the marvels of organic
nature to demonstrate the supreme intelligence and necessary existence
of the Creator’ and unlike 21st-century advocates of ‘intelligent design’,
Charles Darwin ‘used the imperfections and irregularities to be found
everywhere in living organisms to argue that the design of nature was
achieved not by an omniscient inventor but by a groping evolutionary
process.’ (Gruber 1974, 12). In other words, imperfection and errors are
key elements in this story.
This non-teleological view contrasts sharply with the teleological view
on writing as expressed for instance in E.A. Poe’s Philosophy of Composi-
tion, published in 1846. The (over-)emphasis on ‘achievement’ is clear
from the very start of Poe’s essay: ‘It is my design to render it manifest
that no one point in its [The Raven’s] composition is referrible either to
accident or intuition – that the work proceeded, step by step, to its com-
pletion with the precision and rigid consequence of a mathematical prob-
lem.’ (Poe 1986, 482). According to Poe, one of his first considerations
was ‘the proper length for my intended poem – a length of about one
hundred lines’ (483). He presents his writing process as an extremely
teleological project: ‘Here then the poem may be said to have its begin-
ning – at the end, where all works of art should begin’ (487). Still, Poe’s
auto-analysis draws attention to craftsmanship in such a way that it rep-
resents a clear break with an earlier tendency to consider the creative
process as the result of ‘an ecstatic intuition’ (481).

Charles Darwin, B-notebook (on transmutation of species) 74; quoted in Gruber
1974, 21.
Reinhart Koselleck’s research focus is ‘die Auflösung der alten und die Ent-
stehung der modernen Welt in der Geschichte ihrer begrifflichen Erfassung’ (‘Ein-
leitung’ in Brunner, Conze and Koselleck 2004, I: xiv).

A hundred years after Edward Young’s idea that an Original ‘is not
made’ but ‘grows’ notably found its expression in works by poets such as
Walt Whitman. The organic metaphors initiated by Whitman himself are
exemplified by the steady ‘growth’ of the successive editions of Leaves of
In the immediate post-Sattelzeit period, authors seem to be increas-
ingly aware of the literary creation as a process, and some editors were
quicker than others to react. In Germany, Karl Goedeke tried to recon-
struct the ‘Geschichte von Schillers Geist’ (‘history of Schiller’s mind’,
Schillers sämmtliche Schriften, 1: v), and to visualize the creative process:
‘den Process seines Schaffens (…) einigermassen zu veranschaulichen.’8
In France, the ambivalent attitude toward German philology after the
Franco-German war did not imply a sudden aversion to manuscript
research. On the contrary, early versions of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary
were studied (by Antoine Albalat in 1903), Zola’s writing method was
analysed (by Henri Massis in 1906), Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s manu-
script of Paul et Virginie was examined (by Gustave Lanson, in 1908).9
While in Germany critics such as Georg Witkowski (1921) and Reinhold
Backmann (1924) emphasized the importance of the apparatus to recon-
struct the textual development, the French critic Gustave Rudler pub-
lished a study (in 1923) that contained a chapter with the title ‘Critique
de genèse’. Although Almuth Grésillon argues that this should not be
confused with what is now called ‘critique génétique’, Rudler did make
an important statement with regard to editorial theory: ‘Pourquoi la
pensée et sa volonté finales de l’auteur auraient-elles plus de prix que sa
pensée et sa volonté première?’10

Goedeke 1867-76, 15/2: vi-vii: ‘Nur eine photographische Wiedergabe könnte
einen Begriff gewähren, was dem Dichter während der Arbeit der Aufzeichnung
bedürftig erschien. Aber auch nur in der Photographie würde die Art seines eigent-
lichen Schaffens deutlich werden. Dazu reichen gestrichne Lettern und Schriftsorten
verschiedenster Art nicht aus. Und doch erschien es als unausweichliche Aufgabe, den
Process seines Schaffens, so weit es mit gedruckten Lettern möglich ist, einigermassen
zu veranschaulichen.’ (‘Only a photographic representation could give us an idea of
what the poet deemed necessary during the writing process. Only in the photograph
would the art of his actual creation become clear. In this regard, crossed-out letters
and different fonts do not suffice. Nonetheless it seemed to be an inevitable task to
visualize his creative process insofar as that is possible at all in print.’)
For a thorough study of the history of genetic studies in France, see Gothot-
Mersch 1994.
Rudler 1923, 85: ‘Why would the author’s final thought and wish be more valu-
able than his initial thought and wish?’
40 Dirk Van Hulle

The issue of (final) authorial intention has been a major obstacle in

attempts to move toward a rapprochement between different national
editorial schools. Not only the French, but also German scholars used it
to stress the difference between their traditions and the Anglo-American
school. In 1975, in his article ‘A New Approach to the Critical Consti-
tution of Literary Texts’ Hans Zeller called it an ‘ill-suited’ principle
(244). But it is also a good example of the way in which a principle is
blown up in order to highlight and even exaggerate national differences.
The danger is in the neatness of nationalization – to paraphrase Samuel
Beckett. In his Sandars Lectures in Bibliography (delivered in January
1958), even Fredson Bowers – one of the names always associated with
the intentionalist approach – writes: ‘so many changes can take place
between holograph manuscript and first edition that we should study
these changes through various transcripts and proofs not for the simple
mechanical purpose of checking the accuracy of the printed text […] but
instead as an independent act of critical inquiry into the author’s mind
and art’ (Bowers 1966, 17). He refers to a study of T.S. Eliot’s works by
Robert L. Beare, who concludes: ‘The study of the stages of a poem or
play which precede publication are of interest and significance for the
genesis of the poem rather than as a check of its final published form.’
(Beare 1957, 24). If this passage were translated into French, it could
easily pass for a statement by one of the French theorists of critique géné-
In conclusion, it seems fair to say that the insistence on national
editorial schools on the basis of other than linguistic differences is quite
artificial, and perhaps still a remnant of the Sattelzeit, when scholarly
editing was placed in the service of nation building. Especially in this
digital age, when scholars working on electronic editions communicate in
mark-up languages, the notion of national editorial schools seems some-
what obsolete. That is why the foundation of an initiative such as the
European Society for Textual Scholarship, promoting the dialogue be-
tween editorial traditions in different languages, rightly marks the begin-
ning of scholarly editing in the 21st century. It is not a coincidence that
the 2005 issue of Variants (the Journal of the European Society for Textual
Scholarship) opens with a contribution by the Autralian scholar Paul
Eggert with the subtitle: ‘The cross-fertilising of German and Anglo-
American editorial traditions’. A similar cross-fertilisation is taking place
between French and other traditions. The reason why French genetic

critics avoid using the term ‘variants’ and prefer to employ the notion of
‘réécritures’ is precisely because, traditionally, textual variants were consid-
ered to be corruptions. If scholarly editing in the post-Sattelzeit can be
described in terms of Darwin’s heritage and its crucial change of focus
from an essentialist origin to a focus on processes, the following passage
from The Origin of Species may be elucidating: ‘natural selection tends only
to make each organism, each organic being, as perfect as, or slightly
more perfect than, the other inhabitants of the same country with which
it has to struggle for existence’ (Darwin in Mayr 1985, 771). The compar-
ative ‘more perfect’ is a contradiction in terms. It implies a kind of per-
fection that is not absolute; in other words, it implies the acceptance of
imperfection. The consequence is an enhanced interest in processes, not
just products.11 What scholarly editors have increasingly learned to ap-
preciate in the post-Darwin age is the value of ‘mistakes’ to understand
the dynamics of the writing process. It is important to realize that this
international revaluation has been made possible by the decision of au-
thors from the Sattelzeit to start preserving their manuscripts at a time
when editors were perhaps too busy with nation building.

Backmann, Reinhold. 1924. Die Gestaltung des Apparates in den kritischen
Ausgaben neuerer Dichter. Mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der großen
Grillparzer-Ausgabe der Stadt Wien. Euphorion 25: 629-662.
Beare, Robert L. 1957. Notes on the Text of T. S. Eliot: Variants from Russell
Square. Studies in Bibliography 9: 21-49.
Biasi, Pierre-Marc de. 2000. La Génétique des textes. Paris: Nathan.
Bowers, Fredson. 1966. Textual and Literary Criticism. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Brunner, Otto, Werner Conze, Reinhart Koselleck, eds. 2004. Geschichtliche
Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen Sprache in Deutschland,
vol. 1. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. 1980. The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge:
Marginalia I (Abbt to Byfield). Ed. George Whalley; London: Routledge &
Kegan Paul / Princeton: Princeton University Press.

For instance, the notion of ‘relative perfection’ was the reason why the French
poet Francis Ponge presented his ‘Fabrique du Pré’ in the early 1970s as a series of
manuscript versions, in a facsimile edition with transcriptions.
42 Dirk Van Hulle

Cousin, Victor. 1849. Blaise Pascal. In Oeuvres, 4e série, ‘Littérature’, vol. 1;

Darwin, Charles. 1959. The Origin of Species. A Variorum Text. Ed. Morse Peck-
ham; Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Eggert, Paul. 2005. Version, Agency, Intention: The Cross-fertilising of Ger-
man and Anglo-America Editorial Traditions. Variants 4: 5-27.
Goedeke, Karl. 1867-76. Schillers sämmtliche Schriften: Historisch-kritische Ausgabe.
16 vols.; Stuttgart.
Gothot-Mersch, Claudine. 1994. Les études de genèse en France de 1950 à
1960. Genesis 5: 175-87.
Gruber, Howard E. 1974. Darwin on Man: A Psychological Study of Scientific Creativ-
ity. London: Wildwood House.
Hurlebusch, Klaus. 1986. Deutungen literarischer Arbeitsweise. Zeitschrift für
deutsche Philologie, Sonderheft 105: 4-42.
Johnson, Samuel. 1968. Proposals for Printing, by Subscription, the Dramatick
Works of William Shakespeare. In The Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel
Johnson, ed. A. Sherbo, 7: 51-58. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Lanson, Gustave. 1908. Un Manuscrit de ‘Paul et Virginie’. Etude sur l’invention de
Bernardin de Saint-Pierre. Paris: Ed. de la Revue du Mois.
Lebrave, Jean-Louis. 1992. La critique génétique: Une discipline nouvelle ou un
avatar moderne de la philologie? Genesis 1: 33-72.
Mayr, Ernst. 1985. Darwin’s Five Theories. In The Darwinian Heritage, ed. David
Kohn, 755-772. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Nutt-Kofoth, Rüdiger. 2000. Schreiben und Lesen: Für eine produktions- und
rezeptionsorientierte Präsentation des Werktextes in der Edition. In Text
und Edition: Positionen und Perspektiven, ed. Rüdiger Nutt-Kofoth et al., 165-
202. Berlin: Erich Schmidt.
Plachta, Bodo. 1995. German Literature. In Scholarly Editing: A Guide to Research,
ed. D.C. Greetham, 504-29. New York: The Modern Language Association
of America.
Poe, Edgar Allan. 1986. The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings. London:
Penguin Classics.
Rudler, Gustave. 1923. Les Techniques de la critique et de l’histoire littéraire française
moderne. Oxford : Oxford UP.
Shillingsburg, Peter. 2002. ‘The Subject of our Mirth’: The Aesthetic Object in
Anglo-American Editing. In Perspectives of Scholarly Editing / Perspektiven der
Textedition, ed. Bodo Plachta and H.T.M. van Vliet, 47-59. Berlin: Weidler.
Suphan, Bernhard. 1887. Vorbericht. In Goethes Werke. Hrsg. im Auftrag der
Großherzogin Sophie von Sachsen, vol. I.1. Weimar.
Timpanaro, Sebastiano. 1971. Die Entstehung der Lachmannschen Methode. Ham-
burg: Helmut Buske.
Van Hulle, Dirk. 2004 Textual Awareness: A Genetic Study of Late Manuscripts by
Joyce, Proust, and Mann. Ann Arbor:: University of Michigan Press.

Werner, Michael. 1987. Edition und Kulturtradition in Frankreich. editio 1: 139-

Witkowski, Georg. 1921. Grundsätze kritischer Ausgaben neuerer deutscher
Dichtwerke. In Funde und Forschungen: Eine Festgabe für Julius Wahle, 216-226.
Leipzig: Insel.
Young, Robert M. 1985. Darwinism is social. In The Darwinian Heritage, ed.
David Kohn, 609-752. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
EUROPEAN STUDIES 26 (2008): 45-61


Geert Lernout

Philology is a historical discipline and as such, it cannot fail to be
interested in its own origins. From its earliest forms in Hellenistic
Alexandria, philology has attempted to understand and preserve older
texts. With the development of a Christian body of texts in Greek
and later also in Latin, this discipline only became relevant again in
the Renaissance, when numerous new texts were rediscovered. In the
next few centuries the new culture of the Republic of Letters led to a
flowering of classical philology, which stressed the common Euro-
pean culture. Romantic scholars applied the new methodologies to
vernacular texts and this in its turn led to ‘national’ philologies which
began to lead their own lives.

Let me begin by generalising, just a little bit, about the difference be-
tween facts and generalizations. The study of texts and the care for texts
in their most general description, which is what I will call ‘philology’ in
this paper, has always been caught in the famous hermeneutic circle
where we can only understand the first puzzling detail that we find in the
text when we place it in the context of the whole we haven’t even begun
to read and where we can only claim to understand that same whole if
we have first managed to make sense of every single detail. Or, to mud-
dle metaphors even more, philology has always tried to navigate between
the all too solid rock of individual fact and the whirlpool of generaliza-
tions. The dichotomy between the detailed fact on the one hand and the
generalization on the other hand is true on all levels of philological in-
vestigation. At the most basic level it can be seen in the fundamental
distinction between the material form of an individual copy of a book
46 Geert Lernout

and that platonic ideal of a Book that editors refer to as ‘the text’ and
that most literary theorists try so hard not to think about at all. We can
also observe the philologist’s fascination for little things in the enthusi-
asm with which an editor or textual scholar can investigate the presence
or absence of a single comma. It is interesting to see that even a peculiar
form of this interest in orthographic pedantry can find a general audience
in Lynne Truss’s successful book on spelling, Eats, Shoots and Leaves. But
despite its attention to detail, the general field of the study of writing is
not averse to the most encompassing generalizations. On the one hand
we have French post-structuralism’s metaphysical ruminations on écriture
and on the other the partly unrelated work of the theorists of the power
of the oral, the written, the printed and the digital word such as Harold
Innis, Marshall McLuhan, Walter Ong, Jack Goody, Elisabeth Eisenstein
and George P. Landow.
As a fundamentally historical discipline, philology cannot fail to be
interested in its own origins and for the greater part of its history, it has
been characterized by a keen interest in a tradition that reached back
through Christian Rome to a double origin in Hebrew scripture and in
Greek literature and philosophy. Both of the foundational cultures for
Western civilization were built on a sense of identity that was not entirely
tied to geography (as the Egyptian had been) but to a set of shared val-
ues that had first been articulated in oral tales and that was later codified
in written texts. Although we have been warned by scholars such as
William V. Harris for Greek and Roman readers and Harry Y. Gamble
for Christian readers not to overestimate the levels of literacy in the
Hellenistic and Roman periods (Harris 1989, Gamble 1995), it is clear
from the spread of libraries and schools that something like a common
written culture did exist in the later Roman Empire: the great Greek
classics on the one and the biblical literature on the other hand gave their
respective communities a sense of unity and purpose that was thought to
constitute a good education. Scribal culture in Egypt had been the pre-
serve of an elite priestly class, but in later centuries literacy seems to have
become more general among Greeks, Jews and Christians. Of course we
should always be aware that we can only come to such a conclusion on
the basis of evidence that is to a large extent limited to texts, i.e. written
materials that were created, passed on and preserved by the same scribal
class that had every reason to exaggerate its own importance.

The two essentially scribal cultures, Greek and Hebrew, were based
on an education of the young who were trained to read and write by
studying classic writings. It could thus be argued that through the litera-
ture of early rabbinical traditions there is a scribal continuity, for exam-
ple, between the first few centuries of the Common Era and present
forms of Judaism. Until a few decades ago, when Latin and Greek were
still taught generally, a similar continuity was claimed to exist between
Greco-Roman culture and the values of European elites. In both cases
this continuity has recently been questioned: claiming such continuity is
not the same as proving it. In both cases there is a silent supposition that
in the course of history these continuities have not been contaminated by
each other. And in both cases there is the historical fact of a third conti-
nuity of texts, which had its origin in roughly the same region at roughly
the same time. In the greater part of Europe it was by the efforts of an
exclusively Christian elite that both Hebrew and Greek ideas were trans-
mitted in a decidedly changed form. For seventeen centuries the suprem-
acy of Christian ideas could not fail to have a decisive effect on the fate
of the other two continuities.
But let us start from the fact that on the one hand human beings in
general and Western culture in particular need to think that there is a
continuity between the past and the present and that on the other hand
philology has been used to supply that sense of continuity. The history of
philological scholarship itself is subject to the same interest in continuity
we observe in culture in general. The nice thing about the history of
philology is that this history itself has its own historians, among the most
recent of them the prolific Anthony Grafton who has written both ex-
tremely specialist studies and popular books for a general audience on
the history of scholarship. In an intellectual market where books on the
unified field theory in science can become bestsellers, it should not be
too surprising that someone manages to interest a wider audience in the
obscure scholarship by writers long dead about obscure authors who had
been dead even longer by the time they were written about. But surely in
the case of modern physics and biology the immediate political, meta-
physical and moral implications are much more obvious than when the
subject matter is the study of Latin, Greek and Hebrew-Christian schol-
arship? Philologists and editors labour under a relatively well deserved
prejudice that most of the time they are much more interested in the
arcane art of punctuation than in the meaning of the texts they work on.
48 Geert Lernout

In Dutch we used to call them ‘kommaneukers,’ comma fuckers, a term

that with hapax legomenon and lectio difficilior deserves to become part of the
philological terminology. The genius of Anthony Grafton and of the
Italian scholar Luciano Canfora is that they manage to find a wider rele-
vance in the scholarship of generations of comma fucking philologists,
whose work concentrates on tiny nuggets of facts instead of on the grand
scheme of things. It is this dichotomy that will haunt this paper.
In Forgers and Critics Grafton traces the tight relationship between
forgery and literary scholarship through the last twenty-five centuries.
Forgery, the attribution of the authorship of one’s text to another person,
may well be only a day or two younger than writing itself, just as accord-
ing to the German linguist Rudi Keller, human speech and symbolic
language probably started with the first lie (Keller 1990). But a truly
successful forger depends on a certain level of historical knowledge,
because forgery can always be exposed by somebody who simply knows
more about the purported author or genre or period. That person was
the critic or philologist who began his career in Hellenistic times with the
analysis of false works that in the burgeoning book market of fourth and
third century Athens were being attributed to the great authors of the
previous era: Plato, Aristotle or Hippocrates. The scholars headed, ac-
cording to Grafton, ‘by that patron of all later librarians, Callimachus’
distinguished between a writer’s gnesiosi (legitimate offspring) and nothoi
or bastard works, forgeries (Grafton 12). This is the beginning of a phi-
lology that attempted to stay one step ahead of the forgers but that could
not help but transform itself every time a clever forger appeared who
subtly used the same tools that the philologists had earlier employed in
exposing forgery in order to create a more convincing fraud. Every time
this happened, the philologists had to outsmart the clever forger, forcing
future forgers to be even more creative, etc. Forgery and criticism devel-
oped hand-in-hand and it does not come as a surprise that the best forg-
ers were most often the philologists themselves.
Grafton shows that this was not just an academic parlour game: some
of the religious or philosophic sects in the Greek world claimed to have
genuine texts written by their founding fathers, Orpheus and Pythagoras.
And in the multicultural world under Hellenistic influence, Egyptians,
Babylonians and Jews attempted to prove convincingly, with documents
in hand, not only that their civilisation was older than all the others on
offer but that the central insights of Greek philosophy had been copied

from ancient Egyptian, Babylonian or Jewish wisdom sources. When

Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire, the Jewish inter-
pretation of historical precedence was simply adopted by the Christians
who saw themselves as the legitimate heirs to the wisdom of Moses and
Solomon. And the Christians immediately had their own problems with
forgery when early on the authenticity of the Christian writings was
challenged by so-called heretics like Marcion. The canon of Christian
writing was only finalized in a very late stage of its development and that
not without considerable political pressure from the newly Christian
emperors in Rome. In the fight against the writings, both in the Old and
the New Testament, that would henceforth become apocryphal, the same
philological techniques were being used. The Christian scholar Julius
Africanus pointed out that the story of Susanna and the elders in the
Book of Daniel simply could not be genuine. There were historical rea-
sons (in the story the captive Jews in Babylon seemed to enjoy far too
much freedom) and there were also narratological reasons: Daniel in this
section of his Book prophesied in direct speech, whereas elsewhere his
words were reported. But crucially, the story depends on two elaborate
puns that work in Greek, but not in the Hebrew from which this part of
the text was supposedly translated. This kind of close textual scrutiny
disappeared by the end of the classical period: in the early middle ages
the critical study of the bible and of the work of the church fathers – if it
addressed issues of authenticity at all – tended to be theological rather
than historical or philological.
The latter type of scholarship was badly needed when the new nations
in the High Middle Ages began to look for classical pedigrees and did so
without exception by copying Virgil’s example and finding the ancestors
of the British, the French, the Celts and the Frisians in groups of fugi-
tives from the most famous ruined cities, Troy or Jerusalem. In the com-
petition for the oldest ancestry, serious criticism of the other party’s
claim seems to have been only a second option, resorted to when the
first counter-attack did not work. And the first attack was nearly always
simply a new forgery, as when the fight between the universities of Ox-
ford and Cambridge for the oldest pedigree deteriorated into fraudulent
claims and counter-forgeries, which was only won by Cambridge when a
document was found that proved conclusively that the university had
been founded in 394 BC. Monasteries, cities and individuals took over
50 Geert Lernout

the market for forgeries and Grafton writes that the new specialists in
detecting forgeries were the canon lawyers.
The renaissance marked the genuine rebirth of philology and it was in
the study of Latin and Greek texts that the humanist writers rediscovered
and refined the tests that had been invented by their Hellenistic col-
leagues twenty centuries earlier. Francesco Petrarch and the other great
humanist scholars rediscovered scores of texts that had long disappeared
and they reinterpreted existing texts in a new light. And at the same time
the new invention of the printing press for the first time in history made
perfect copies of a single editio princeps available for comparison and
collation everywhere in the world.
Grafton’s major intellectual heroes belong in this period: they are the
philologists Lorenzo Valla, Desiderius Erasmus, Joseph Scaliger, Justus
Lipsius, Richard Bentley, all of them critics and editors who perfected
and sometimes invented the careful critical study of and care for texts
from the past. In their study of the works of the Roman and Greek
writers, they refused to take anything for granted and their irreverent
attitude to the glories of the past led to famous intellectual debates such
as the querelle des anciens et modernes in France or the Battle of the Books in
England, where the authority of the classics was at stake. The critical
attitude towards tradition is already present in the writings of the earliest
humanists but it would lead inevitably, first to the reformation and then,
after the disasters of the different religious wars, to scepticism and what
Jonathan Israel has called the radical enlightenment.
What is striking about this heroic generation of philologists is the
new self-assurance needed to position oneself just outside and, if need
be, against the accumulated weight of tradition, even, for those con-
cerned, in opposition to the most absolute forms of religious tradition.
This attitude may be most famously embodied by the German monk
when he had been summoned by the Holy Roman Emperor in an at-
tempt at reconciliation: ‘Hier steh’ ich, ich kann nicht anders.’ But a
similar attitude can be found in the work of philologists such as Valla
when he haughtily proves that the Donation of Constantine cannot pos-
sibly be genuine1 or when Erasmus edited the most holy Christian texts

Valla explains in a letter to cardinal Trevisan: ‘Why did I write about the Dona-
tion of Constantine? (...) Bear one thing in mind. I was not moved by hatred of the
Pope, but acted for the sake of the truth, of religion, and also of a certain renown – to
show that I alone knew what no one else knew.’

from Greek (and thus by definition schismatic) originals and in the pro-
cess managed to give the New Testament a new and philologically more
correct title (Novum Instrumentum). The same extreme self-assurance can
be found in Spinoza’s Tractatus, in Richard Bentley’s textual criticism and
in the work of so many of the other erudite and extremely critical think-
ers of this period.
It is an irony not lost on the major participants in this movement that
just as these critics had edited and printed most of the major and minor
Greek and Latin texts, when to a large extent issues of chronology and
authenticity had been settled, that the same critical spirit began to cast a
cold eye on their own discipline (Grafton 1991). In the most advanced
circles of the seventeenth century textual study began to lose its prestige
to the experimental sciences and increasingly also to the experience of
the practical men who would build the new world of technology. Galileo
had already established that if there was a book of nature, that particular
book was written not in Latin or Greek or Hebrew but in the language
of mathematics.
Strangely from our present point of view this generation of textual
critics seems to have agreed with their critics: Richard Bentley wrote that
ratio et res ipsa (reason and the thing itself) carried more weight than a
hundred manuscripts. The rediscovery of Roman and Greek ruins, the
careful collection of inscriptions and coins had already changed the
writing of history based on literary sources, when the French Jesuit Jean
Hardouin made the claim, ‘well beyond the verge of madness,’ quotes
Grafton from Momigliano (Grafton 2001, 182) that the confrontation of
coins and literary texts proved that most of the texts of classical and early
literature had in reality been written by an atheist sect of fourteenth
century Italians, who forged among many other texts (including the
complete works of Thomas Aquinas), all the works of the Latin and
Greek church fathers. This conspiracy of clerics, this unholy cabal was
even responsible (dixit Hardouin) for convincing the Byzantine Greeks
that they should abandon their originally Latin liturgy and Bible for the
forged Greek translations, and all of this just to confuse the Catholic
faithful (Grafton 2001, 193).
The textual critics and participants in the several querelles did not need
unbalanced Jesuits to make a mockery of their own discipline: they had
lampooned themselves and each other even earlier, writing satirical ac-
counts of nit-picking editors and over-scrupulous textual critics. That
52 Geert Lernout

they used the all too classical genre of satire for this purpose and that
these texts were often written in the most difficult and erudite Latin is an
irony that cannot have escaped their attention.
The self-criticism of humanism is even older. In her study of the fate
of Latin, Françoise Waquet describes the rise in the early sixteenth cen-
tury of the stock-character of the pedant in vernacular literatures in Ital-
ian, French and English, who quotes Latin and Greek indiscriminately.
Examples are Giordano Bruno’s Il Candelaio, Gabriel Harvey’s Pedantius
and Cyrano de Bergerac’s Le pédant joué. In his essay Du pédantisme
Montaigne blamed this condition on the fact that the only people who
tried to make a living out of learning were people of low fortune: ‘And
with such people their natures, being by family background and example
of the lower sort, assimilate the fruits of knowledge falsely’ (Waquet
2001: 209). This snobbish dismissal of the lowly pedant should remind
us that quite a few of the textual scholars, like Harvey and Bentley, did
indeed rise from the lower classes and in both cases they were not al-
lowed to forget their original status. The cruel treatment they encoun-
tered from the people that used to be called their ‘betters’ may well ex-
plain some of the stridency in their writings and it certainly demonstrates
that for ambitious young men of humble birth the thorough mastery of
Greek and of an elegant Ciceronian Latin represented one of the few
chances for advancement (see Stern 1979 and Monk 1883).
Montaigne may have mourned the loss of Latin as a European lan-
guage in his essays, but he wrote and published his lament in French and
this is a development that we find everywhere in the seventeenth century:
Newton still wrote his Principia in Latin but his Optics was in English.
Latin was used by scholars to communicate, but on the continent at least,
it began to be replaced in the eighteenth century by French. It is clear
that this common language was an important cohesive factor in Europe.
This was certainly the case for the Catholics who still had Latin as a
lingua franca, but in the study of Latin the close scrutiny of texts by Ro-
man writers was part of the education of both Catholics and Protestants
and thus the language was not restricted to the former. Some textual
scholars and editors in the sixteenth and seventeenth century showed a
remarkable versatility in adapting their religious allegiances to the situa-
tion in which they found themselves and Dutch and English Protestants
visited Italian libraries and monasteries with very few restrictions. While
the study and interpretation of biblical and patristic sources was highly

controversial, the reading of Virgil and Horace had the advantage of

representing a neutral territory. When young British and Dutch scholars
visited Italy on the first grand tours, they found like-minded scholars
there who certainly did not share their religious ideas.2 So Latin was not
an exclusively Catholic language: it was after all in mostly Protestant
Germany that in the nineteenth century the modern secondary school
and university education was first developed.
While political Europe was disintegrating in religious territories,
humanism was creating an international intellectual elite that to a large
extent disregarded the new national or religious borders and disputes.
This early enlightenment was based on an intricate system of personal
ties, learned societies and journals that enabled scholars who had com-
pletely different social, political, national and religious allegiances to
exchange information on Roman and Greek antiquities, on variants and
manuscripts. This is clear when we see that Richard Bentley, an English
Protestant, not only had excellent relations with the French Benedictines
at Saint Maur, not just helping them with their edition of the works of
Origen of Alexandria but even exchanging collations of biblical manu-
scripts when both parties were involved in competing Protestant and
Catholic editions of the Bible.
This philological international was not an affair of what we now call
‘the humanities.’ The split between what fifty years ago C.P. Snow called
the two cultures had not yet occurred and the most important of the
scientific geniuses who created the scientific revolution, Leibniz and
Newton, were just as much fascinated by theological and historical is-
sues. And so were the many learned societies that were created all over
Europe, with support from the more enlightened of the European kings
and princes.
Institutionally, the study of Greek and Latin literature was a late-
comer at the university. It was only in 1777 and after quite a fight that
F.A. Wolf managed to be matriculated at Göttingen, not in theology, but
as a studiosus philologiae. Famously his near-contemporary, the English
philologist Richard Porson was told by the Vice-Chancellor of Cam-
bridge University that he might just as well ‘collect his manuscripts at
home’ instead of using the university’s resources. For textual scholars
romanticism brought a number of different developments: on the one

A good example is Nicolaes Heinsius, see Blok 1984.
54 Geert Lernout

hand all the major Greek and Latin texts had already been edited and
most of the efforts would henceforth be directed on the one hand to-
wards the edition of the more obscure texts and on the other hand to the
annotation of those works that were beginning to be considered and
marketed as ‘the classics’. But these classics also changed their character:
among quite a few other essays and books in the final decades of the
eighteenth century, it was the same F.A. Wolf’s study Prolegomena ad
Homerum that turned the Greek poet from the classicist writer of the
previous era into a natural, naive and folk poet (or group of poets).
The privileged and newly ‘classic’ texts also needed commentary and
annotation because their thorough study began to form an important part
of a university education that had until this moment been a uniform
phenomenon. The earliest universities used to offer an education that
was not substantially different in Bologna than in Oxford or Paris or
Prague. It was only when this essentially religious education split into
Catholic and Protestant versions that there were at least two kinds of
universities, but even then the Latin and Greek curriculum tended to be
similar, regardless of the university’s religious allegiance.
It was in the nineteenth century that this common culture came under
attack from the most unlikely side: textual scholars and editors, all of
whom had learned the trade in the study of Greek and Latin literature,
began to collect, edit and publish texts in the vernacular languages. Again
the German scholars were pioneers in this practice and it has become a
common-place that it was this development that stands at the start of the
modern conception of European humanist study at the secondary and
tertiary levels.
No wonder then that by the end of the nineteenth century the Ger-
man form of textual criticism was being imitated all over the world. This
form of inquiry became the basis of the modern humanities departments
at the new research university that in one way or another is still the
world-wide model for higher education. German textual study was every-
where and even Italy, a country that claimed to have invented both clas-
sical and vernacular humanist study, had to be prodded by German
scholars into the editing and studying of early Italian texts. Similar devel-
opments took place all over Europe, with local scholars only slowly
catching up with what the Germans had been doing successfully for
many years. In the course of the nineteenth century, in other words, the
discipline of philology went through a process of nationalization. By the

end of the century the scholarly study of each of the different national
literatures and the historical-critical edition of its major texts had become
a university specialism that of course tended to be restricted in the main
to the university departments in one’s own country. No single European
university could afford to have all of the European languages and litera-
tures covered. National philologists not only wrote on their own lan-
guage but in their publications they increasingly began to use that lan-
guage too. In most cases this effectively excluded non-native speakers
from this form of enquiry and this resulted in the novel fact that some of
the national philologies began to have their own divergent developments,
to some extent outside of the hitherto general university culture.
Language still is a central issue in philology, not just as the object of
study but at least as importantly as a medium of that study: philology
used to be an international science that was practiced, like all other sci-
ences, in an international language, Latin. Nowadays classical philology
by its nature remains an international and to some extent a non-national
concern but its practitioners no longer write in a common language. In
the nineteenth century the specialized journals began to publish their
scholarship in the vernacular languages, so that modern classical or bibli-
cal philologists who wanted to keep up with the literature were required
to have a reading knowledge of at least Italian, of English, German and
French and preferably also of Dutch, Spanish and Danish.
Judging from the titles of the contributions in this symposium, it is
obvious that in the nineteenth century philology as a science shifted its
attention from classical Greek and Latin texts to texts in the vernacular,
beginning with the oldest medieval texts and in some instances moving
to what was called the ‘national’ literatures of the eighteenth and nine-
teenth century. By the turn of the twentieth century the development of
editorial practice in some cases would shift from classical philology to
the edition of modern literatures with the difficult cases of ‘national po-
ets’ such as in the UK William Shakespeare (no manuscripts and defec-
tive printed versions) in the UK and in Germany Friedrich Hölderlin
(only drafts of the later major poems) and Franz Kafka (only manu-
scripts of the major works) among many other controversial cases. Be-
cause of these conditions, in many cases editorial theory ceased to have a
common international forum. When in the seventies and eighties French
genetic criticism became interested in those textual issues that had been
dismissed as positivist by structuralism and post-structuralism, the result-
56 Geert Lernout

ing development to a large extent happened without reference to existing

methodologies in German and Anglo-American traditions.
In classical studies editorial theory was and still is considered to be a
shared problem, with discussions of Lachmann’s stemmatic approach in
some European countries, e.g. in Italy where for all kinds of cultural and
political reasons there has been a continuous dialogue between the two
philologies. But in the rest of Europe and in the US the separate devel-
opment in classical and vernacular philologies and the fact that increas-
ingly the latter issues were being discussed in one’s own national lan-
guage, has resulted in entirely separate developments. By the end of the
twentieth century there were a few attempts at a dialogue between Ger-
man editors and French généticiens or between the latter and the Italian
philologers. In his study of editorial traditions in the case of the modern-
ist writers James Joyce, Thomas Mann and Marcel Proust, Dirk Van
Hulle was able to trace the exact relationships among the Anglo-Ameri-
can, German and French traditions in editing and textual study, a feat
that only became possible because in this case the scholar studying these
traditions was not just fluent in all the languages involved but also suffi-
ciently aware of the specific editorial problems in the three very different
cases of Joyce, Mann and Proust (Van Hulle 2004).
This is another source for the divergence in philological theory and
practice: the increasing trend of specialization in graduate education has
resulted in an almost programmatic reluctance to generalise. This is
paradoxically demonstrated in the career of Roland Barthes whose first
structuralist work attacked the philology of the traditional critics by
attempting to find the structures underlying not just literary but all
semiotic systems, the most ambitious project of providing a general basis
for every aspect of what was called a ‘signifying practice’. But by the end
of the seventies Barthes had moved away from such generalization,
arguing, in his late study La chambre obscure, for the creation of a mathesis
singularis, which he defined as ‘the impossible science of the unique be-
ing’ (Barthes 1980, 110).
We can observe in the same period an equivalent for this reluctance
to generalize in similar developments in editorial theory. The representa-
tives of the New New Bibliography moved away from the Greg-Bowers-
Tanselle insistence on the universal relevance of authorial intention. We
can also see it in recent German editions, such as Sattler’s edition of the
works of Friedrich Hölderlin or in the refusal of critique génétique to even

consider editing a text, because that would give a finality to a version of

the text that by definition no text can or should have. In more recent
years there have been strong arguments by respected authors against
traditional philology. In his ‘critical history of philology’ Bernard
Cerquiglini argues against the generalising tendencies in philology and he
praises the individual variant that does not allow a generalization
(Cerquiglini 1989). In all these cases, editors, critics and theorists of
different national, cultural and ideological backgrounds refuse to general-
ize and instead they defend a principled priority of the individual mate-
rial and textual fact.
With all these centrifugal forces at work in and (it might be argued)
against philology, it is heartening to observe that in some philological
fields we can see attempts to counter-act the forces that threaten to tear
the discipline further apart. Strangely the most important of these centri-
petal forces comes from precisely the field that for so many centuries
had been the direct competitor of classical learning: the study of the
bible. Biblical philology suffers from all of the ills of classical philology:
specialization on the one hand and on the other a relevant secondary
bibliography in at least six languages. Traditionally the study of the
strange book we call the bible was divided strictly along confessional
lines with Catholic, Protestant and Jewish interpretations only rarely
meeting. In the nineteenth century attempts were made to find a com-
mon ground, both in what in 1787 began to be called the ‘higher criti-
cism’ and in the lower criticism that concerned itself with textual details
and editing. By the mid-nineteenth century the serious scholarly study of
the bible was no longer restricted to theology departments and non- or
no longer religious scholars such as D.F. Strauss and Ernest Renan con-
tinued the historical and critical studies of early Judaism and Christianity
that would lead to the inerrancy debate and fundamentalism in the
protestant churches and somewhat later to the modernist crisis in Cathol-
icism. It is only in the last half century, after the hierarchy in Rome
changed its position on the historical study of the text, that Catholic
biblical scholars have begun to read and study the book from a perspec-
tive that is no longer strictly partisan.3
It is interesting first, simply to note that major figures in the history
of philology as a critical discipline such as Richard Bentley and Karl

For general surveys of biblical criticism, see Greenslade 1963 and Reventlow
58 Geert Lernout

Lachmann planned to expose the biblical text to the principles of the

new science. Secondly the history of biblical textual scholarship would
have been quite different without the reformation: obviously the serious
study of the text of the bible became much more important after the
introduction of the doctrine of sola scriptura. If only the words of God’s
book and not tradition can tell us something about God, then it becomes
vitally important that the book as we have it really does contain God’s
unadulterated word. As Salvatore Comporeale demonstrated more than
thirty-five years ago, this interest in the biblical text had been pioneered
by Lorenzo Valla as a strictly humanist form of ‘New Theology’
(Camporeale 1972). It was Erasmus’s great achievement that he most
clearly understood what Valla had been trying to do in his Adnotationes in
Novum Testamentum. The philological interest in the biblical text thus
preceded the reformation but, needless to say, the doctrine of sola
scriptura gave its findings a kind of relevance that had been absent in the
history of the church with the exception of its earliest history, between
the writing of Revelation 22:18-19 (‘For I testify unto every man that
heareth the words of the prophecy of this book. If any man shall add
unto these things, God shall unto him the plagues that are written in this
book: And if any shall take away from the words of the book of this
prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out
of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book’) and
the discussions about the exact nature of the Christian canon that lasted
at least until the beginning of the fifth century. In that earliest history the
status of the earliest Christian texts had been decidedly non-canonical
and although the arguments for inclusion or exclusion of a particular text
in the canon were only seldom historical or philological, these consider-
ations had not been completely absent either.
But paradoxically, some of the most thorough biblical criticism in the
period after Luther and Calvin came from Catholic scholars such as
Richard Simon and Alexander Geddes who not only wanted to defend
the orthodoxy of tradition against Spinoza’s rationalist critique but also
against the total reliance on the bible that the Protestants advocated (see
Murri 1972 and Fuller 1984). Even before the publication of his Histoire
critique du Vieux Testament, Simon had been involved in an aborted at-
tempt to translate the bible in collaboration with Protestants and in the
end it was his use of the term ‘critique’ in combination with the bible
that upset the Catholic critics the most. Apparently in those more inno-

cent days, that word still had its original force. It can only be a hopeful
sign that last year, I think for the very first time, a Dutch translation of
the bible was published that was the result of a real collaboration be-
tween Catholics and Protestants and that seems to have been acceptable
to both parties. In the field of biblical criticism at least, a general agree-
ment has been found on the presumably historical and critical shape of
the text that transcends these old sectarian divisions.
In conclusion I would like to make a few suggestions. If we can learn
anything from the history of our discipline, it is that there is no such
thing as a German or a French philology, just as there is no Catholic or
Jewish science. The principles governing the creation, transmission and
usage of written texts are the same, whether we study classical, biblical or
modern writings. As Joep Leerssen has argued in the introduction to this
volume, there are no good reasons for the continued separate develop-
ment of the national philologies and it might be a good idea to increase
the number and quality of contacts between scholars from the different
national scholarly traditions in all forms of philology. For that purpose it
seems necessary that major contributions to editorial theory or practice
should at least be reported and maybe systematically translated in
English-language publications. That would put an end to the harmful
isolation of some national philologies who continue to be blissfully un-
aware of what is and has been happening in neighbouring cultures and
literatures. At the same time scholars working within these national
literatures should be much more aware of what is going on in the study
of earlier texts and vice versa. As G. Thomas Tanselle put it, almost a
quarter of a century ago:
By not familiarizing themselves with the textual criticism of classical, bibli-
cal, and medieval literature, textual scholars of more recent literature are
cutting themselves off from a voluminous body of theoretical discussion
and the product of many generations of experience. And by not keeping up
with developments in the editing of post-medieval writings, students of
earlier works are depriving themselves of the knowledge of significant
advances in editorial thinking. (Tanselle 1983: 22)
Finally, and this bring us back to the discussion of facts and generaliza-
tion in the first part of this paper: in Joseph A. Dane’s recent The Myth of
Print Culture it becomes evident that what philology in the widest defini-
tion needs most desperately is not more generalization. Dane skilfully
and wittily demonstrates that some of the most widely cherished beliefs
60 Geert Lernout

and stories about print culture are no more than convenient myths that
cannot possibly be substantiated. Most relevantly in his Chapter 6 Dane
demolishes what he calls ‘the critical mythology that accrues to certain
historical figures (Erasmus, Bentley, Malone) as they become defined as
editors in the modern sense’ (Dane 2005, 4-5). Since my all-too-general-
ising comments have to some extent been based on the mythological
history of the discipline written by latter-day philologists, we may well
have to revise part of this story. But before we do that, we will require
many more details, because it is there, among the details, according to
the old saying, that we’ll find ‘der Herr-Gott’. The first irony is that at
least one editorial variant of this old saying claims that instead of God
we will find ‘der Teufel’ in the detail. And perhaps the final and com-
pletely appropriate irony is that both versions of this saying have been
variously attributed to Goethe, Spinoza, Flaubert and a host of other
writers. Personally I am quite certain that it is the devil who is to blame.

Auvray, Paul. 1974. Richard Simon: 1638-1712. Paris: Presses universitaires
Barthes, Roland. 1980. La chambre claire Paris: Seuil.
Blok, Frans Felix. 1984. Nicolaas Heinsius in Napels (april-juli 1647). Amsterdam:
North-Holland Publishing Company.
Camporeale, Salvatore. 1972. Lorenzo Valla. Umanesimo e teologia. Preface by
Eugenio Garin. Firenze: Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento.
Canfora, Luziano. 1991. The Vanished Library. London: Vintage.
Canfora, Luziano. 1998. La Bibliotheca del patriarca: Fozio censurato nella Francia di
Mazzarino. Roma: Salerno.
Canfora, Luziano. 2002. Convertire Casaubon. Milano: Adelphi.
Cerquiglini, Bernard. 1989. Eloge de la variante: Histoire critique de la philology. Paris:
Dane, Joseph A. 2005. The Myth of Print Culture: Essays on Evidence, Textuality, and
Bibliographical Method. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Fuller, Reginald C. 1984. Alexander Geddes 1737-1802: Pioneer of Biblical Criticism.
Sheffield: Almond Press,
Gamble, Harry Y. 1995. Books and Readers in the Early Church: A History of Early
Christian Texts. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Grafton, Anthony. 1990. Forgers and Critics: Creativity and Duplicity inWestern
Scholarship. London: Collins & Brown.

Grafton, Anthony. 1991. Defenders of the Text: The Traditions of Scholarship in an

Age of Science, 1450-1800. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Grafton, Anthony. 1997. The Footnote: A Curious History. London: Faber and
Grafton, Anthony. 2002. Bring Out Your Dead: The Past as Revelation. Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press.
Greenslade, S.L, ed. 1963. The Cambridge History of the Bible. The West from the
Reformation to the Present Day. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Harris, William V. 1989. Ancient Literacy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Keller, Rudi. 1990. Sprachwandel. Von der unsichtbaren Hand in der Sprache.
Tübingen: Francke.
Mirri, F. Saverio. 1972. Richard Simon e il metodo storico-critico di B. Spinoza.
Firenze: F. le Monnier.
Monk, James Henry. 1883. The Life of Richard Bentley, D.D. London.
Reventlow, Henning Graf. 1990-97. Epochen der Bibelauslegung. 3 vols.; München:
C.H. Beck.
Stern, Virginia F. 1979. Gabriel Harvey: His Life, Marginalia and Library. Oxford:
Clarendon Press.
Tanselle, G. Thomas. 1983. Classical, Biblical and Medieval Textual Criticism
and Modern Editing. Studies in Bibliography 36: 21-68.
Van Hulle, Dirk. 2004. Textual Awareness: A Genetic Study of Late Manuscripts by
Joyce, Proust, and Mann. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Waquet, Françoise. 2001. Latin or the Empire of the Sign. London: Verso.
EUROPEAN STUDIES 26 (2008): 65-78



Darko Dolinar

Critical editions in Slovenia belong to two different contexts: Slavic
philology and Slovenian national culture. Their development can be
divided along two lines. The editions of older texts and materials are
more committed to pure scholarly criteria; they are intended primarily
for a specialized, also international readership, with less interest in (or
for) the wider public. The editions of more recent literary works have
a wider and more mixed target readership. In terms of editorial
procedure they are more subject to compromise and more open to a
nationally ideological parti-pris. The major contemporary series
‘Collected Works of Slovenian Poets and Writers’ represents the
mixed type of editions where strictly scholarly treatments coexist with
accessibility for the general public. However, this schematic division
still leaves room for exceptions such as the recent critical edition of
the medieval Freising manuscripts, whose eager acceptance among
the wider public bespeaks the political attitudes of a specific historical

Ever since its beginning in the early nineteenth century, editing activity in
Slovenia has primarily been tied to national philology or national literary
history, and much less, or almost not at all, to other text-related disci-
plines such as law, philosophy, history, theology or Biblical studies – that
is, disciplines in which critical editions may have an equally important
role. The history of critical editions in Slovenia should be seen, then, in
two different but interconnected contexts: Slavic philology and Slovene
66 Darko Dolinar

national culture. I first examine these contexts and then proceed to con-
sider critical editions themselves.

Slavic philology belongs to the group of ‘new’ or national philologies.
These were shaped relying heavily on the model of ‘old’, i.e. classical
philology, with the theoretical and methodological approaches, values
and techniques of the Classics transposed to the subject areas of ‘new’
European literatures and cultures. This occurred at a specific historical
juncture towards the end of the eighteenth and at the beginning of the
nineteenth century, under the influence of the flourishing and predomi-
nance of historicism and the rise of national awareness and of modern
nation-formation. Against the backdrop of these significant conceptual
and intellectual shifts could national literatures and cultures become a
rewarding subject of scholarly studies. The assumption behind every
critical edition is that a text under consideration has a certain value, and
therefore deserves close philological examination. A priori recognition of
its value is a prerequisite, or the undertaking would not make sense. This
means that, similar to the approach adopted by old philology in treating
the works of classical antiquity, the new philologies view texts written in
national languages as having value – albeit that the perspective and eval-
uation criteria are now somewhat different. Whereas the Classics carried
ethical, cognitive and aesthetic values that constituted the core of the
ideal of universal humanist education and Bildung, and as such were
accepted by European cultures of later periods, the texts treated by the
new philologies have yet another, added value in addition to these. They
are the manifestations of the creativity of a specific ethnic group or
nation – or, in other words, the intellectual life of these groups finds
expression through these texts. Perhaps the most energetic expression of
this belief is the formulation that the individuality of a nation – that is,
the nationality of a nation1 – is in essence its language, literature (in the
widest sense of the word, including folklore), mythology and religion.
Roughly speaking, the development of the new philologies seems to
go through two crucial phases. In the first phase, the new philologies
delineated their subject fields, identified the main problems, put in order

This was the basic standpoint explicitly formulated by Gregor Krek, the first
professor of Slavic philology at the University of Graz; cf. Krek 1874, 141-46; the
same in Krek 1887, 477-83.

their theoretical foundations and created the methodological apparatus;

in the next phase, they broke from the isolated sphere of private erudi-
tion and moved towards establishing and encompassing institutions and
social promotion. Their inner dynamics were governed by two aspira-
tions. One was expansion, or the conquering of new dimensions of their
objects of study and reinforcing and deepening the theoretical founda-
tions and methodological procedures. The other was progressive differ-
entiation and specialisation with respect to the field of study (in which
the focus shifted from the philology of broader language groups to par-
ticular national philologies) and at the systemic and methodological
levels, where general philology split into individual disciplines, in most
cases linguistics, literary studies and ethnology or folklore studies.
During the nineteenth century, the period of their greatest flourishing,
the new philologies strived to secure for themselves a central place
among the humanities by applying the highest levels of professionalism
in all respects. They adhered to the principles of scholarly studies that
were valid at that time. However, they did not operate in neutral aca-
demic and cultural spaces of pure cognition and evaluation, but were
part of the historical and social contexts of the time. Since as a rule they
dealt with languages, literatures and folklores of specific national com-
munities – their own national communities – they were obliged to ex-
press and affirm corresponding national traits. The more convincingly
and successfully they fulfilled this task – an ideological one, really – the
more readily their role as a central national discipline was acknowledged.
The national-ideological aspect is more or less common to all the new
philologies, and their social function largely rests upon this aspect. How
this worked out in practice was a matter of particular historical circum-
stances. By and large, a nineteenth-century spectrum runs from sovereign
nations with strong economies, firm social structures and developed
cultures (e.g., France, Britain, Spain and Russia), to non-sovereign, politi-
cally subaltern, economically and socially weak, and culturally under-
developed nations (also referred to as ‘stateless’ or ‘non-historical’ na-
tions, e.g., Irish, Catalonian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian). Positioned between
these two extremes are nations with significant histories and developed
cultures, but without autonomy or political independence (e.g., Czech,
Polish and to some extent Italian).
National philologies ranged across very different contexts, and were
subject to different circumstances. Because language, folklore, literature
68 Darko Dolinar

and arts are the main (if not practically the only) manifestations of the
existence of ‘stateless’ nations, they tend to be studied and cultivated
with special zeal. While a rich and developed culture with many quality
texts at its disposal can afford to neglect works of less significance, in
smaller and less developed nations every cultural phenomenon, regard-
less of significance, may become the focus of philologists’ interest.
The Slovene nation falls into this latter category: stateless, with a late
development. A process of national revival or awakening occurred in the
late eighteenth and throughout the nineteenth century; it was initially
restricted to linguistic, literary and cultural activities, and later spread into
the economic, social and political fields. National philology emerged as a
part of this process. Its very birth and existence testify to the efforts to
revive the local language and culture; conversely, it played an active role
in this process and contributed to the emergence of national awareness.
National philology was driven by the need for national affirmation, and
philology’s ideological function in the Slovene context was more salient
than in large, developed and sovereign nations.
Slavic studies evolved along more or less the same path as the other
new philologies. The important stages, shifts and milestones in its devel-
opment mainly corresponded to the established pattern of Germanic and
Romance studies, albeit a little belatedly. One of the central dilemmas,
probably not so conspicuous in other studies, related to the specification
of the subject field. The points at issue were the relationships, bound-
aries and transitions between the fields common to all Slavic nations in
general and those specific to individual ethnic (i.e., national) entities
inside this framework. One of the problems was a distinction between
languages and dialects and between nations and ethnic groups or tribes.
The perspective on this issue obviously changed over time; this is indi-
cated by a meaningful difference between the titles of two standard
works. In 1826 Pavol J. Šafárik wrote his History of the Slavic Language and
Literature (note the singular form) in all its Dialects (Šafárik [Schaffarik]
1826), but forty years later Pypin and Spasovich published their Historical
Review of Slavic Literatures (note the plural).2 This vacillation has wider
implications. It is connected with the emergence of Pan-Slavism and its
various offshoots (e.g., Illyrianism in the South Slavic region). Above all,

Pypin and Spasovich 1864, 2nd expanded ed.: Pypin and Spasovich 1879-80. The
contemporary German translation of this book (1880-84) was very popular among
Slavic readers in the Habsburg monarchy.

it is related to the fact that in the nineteenth century the constitution of

the Slavic nations and the shaping of national awareness were as yet in
flux. The circumstances of political and cultural history prevailing in
various regions dictated various social roles conferred upon Slavic stud-
ies in their specific environments. While in Russia, philology dealt with
the culture of the ruling nation, the situation was different in the Habs-
burg monarchy, which encompassed the majority of the West Slavic
nations and a considerable number of the South Slavic nations in a sub-
ordinate political and social position.
The development of Slavic studies in Austria is fairly well known (e.g.
Kimball 1973). It began with the collaboration of experts, critics, enthu-
siasts and authors from the broader environment whose gravitational
centre was Vienna. Over several decades, the research work and publish-
ing activities of this informal international network provided firm foun-
dations for Slavic studies, so that by the mid-nineteenth century it
emerged as a mature discipline that found its way into the universities,
first the University of Vienna, then those of Graz and Prague. Prominent
Slovene philologists contributed a great deal to the discipline’s develop-
ment, among them the founder, Jernej (Bartholomäus) Kopitar
(1780-1844), his student, successor and the first professor of Slavic
philology in Vienna Fran Miklošič (Miklosich, 1813-91) and the pioneer
of Slavic studies at the University of Graz, Gregor Krek (1840-1905).
Towards the end of the century, they were succeeded by the representa-
tives of the next generation of philologists: Vatroslav Oblak (1864-96),
Karel Štrekelj (1859-1912) and Matija Murko (1861-1952), who adapted
to completely new circumstances following the First World War.
In the light of these facts, it is understandable that one of the main
lines of development of national philology in Slovenia was closely related
to academic Slavic studies in Austria. However, initially the themes and
issues specific to Slovenia were relatively less conspicuous. They re-
ceived more emphasis only towards the end of the nineteenth century;
that is, the time when the previously dominant uniform model of philol-
ogy began to split into national disciplines elsewhere as well. It was at
this time that Štrekelj gave the first independent lectures on Slovene
language, literature and folk songs at the University of Graz; some of
these were even held in the Slovene language.
Significantly stimuli towards a Slovene national philology also came
from outside academic institutions. Among these there were courses in
70 Darko Dolinar

Slovene (as a native language) and Slovene literature that were gradually
established in Germanised schools; the textbooks and reference books
used in these courses can be considered the second line of development
in emerging Slovene studies. Another relevant influence were newspa-
pers and magazines, which published popular texts with didactic content
and written in the spirit of national awakening, paving the way for more
complex literary and critical textual activity. Such journalism combined
the programmatic standpoints of literary authors, more ambitious book
reviews and the first serious attempts at literary theory. In this long and
complex process of the constitution of Slovene letters, the crucial
passage-points are marked by the first academic treatises, the first com-
plete literary historical reviews, the gradual specialisation of professional
publications, the strengthening of a theoretical and methodological basis
at the beginning of the twentieth century and, finally, the full institutional
and social recognition of this discipline, which occurred only after the
disintegration of the Habsburg monarchy and within the new Yugoslav
state. Slovene studies were accorded a central place in the first Slovene
university in Ljubljana, established in 1919.

Critical Editions
The manoeuvring space of these editions seems by and large to have
been determined by three factors: the nature and the scope of the textual
heritage in question, the principles and theoretical or methodological
approaches employed by their parent disciplines, and various external
systemic aspects (ideological, cultural and social, organisational, eco-
nomic). The interplay of these factors crucially shapes and directs the
structure and function of critical editions.
One of the most important factors influencing editorial practice is the
fact that the corpus of older Slovene texts is modest in number and
scope. Only some ten medieval manuscripts have survived to date, some
in their entirety and others in fragments, and these are predominantly
prayers and sermons; these manuscripts are unique specimens, and so
they do not provide evidence of a copying tradition. The Early Modern
period saw the emergence of a body of writing with a predominantly
ecclesiastical religious focus; alongside, the number of secular functional
writings gradually increased as well. Artistic literature emerged towards
the end of the eighteenth century and reached its first peak in the first
half of the nineteenth century with Romantic poetry, represented by

names like France Prešeren (1800-1849). In subsequent decades, post-

Romantic and Realistic narrative prose developed (Fran Levstik, 1831-
1887; Josip Jurčič, 1844-1881), and readership grew in size; at the same
time, the social basis of literature was strengthened through book pub-
lishing, periodicals and school curricula.
On this basis, text editions in Slovenia appear to have followed a dual
line of development. One of these runs concurrently with Slavic philol-
ogy in general, the other belongs to the domain of national literary his-
tory. The former includes primarily older texts and documentary materi-
als, whereas the latter is dominated by recent literary works. Folk songs
occupy an intermediate position, showing the traits of both types men-
The first line has its beginnings in the early nineteenth century and
originated in the circle gathered around the patron and mentor
Sigismund Zois (1747-1819). Jernej Kopitar was a member of this circle,
as was the poet and versatile essayist Valentin Vodnik (cf. Merchiers
2005). Their correspondents also included the ‘father of Slavic studies’
Josef Dobrovský. The text editions generated by this circle were intended
primarily for an academically erudite audience. In terms of quality, the
best among these – for example, Kopitar’s edition of the Freising Manu-
scripts, partly published in 1822, with a complete edition appearing in
18363 – are on a par with the best international academic works of that
time. This line was carried on by the aforementioned Slovene experts in
Slavic studies at Austrian universities, Miklošič, Krek and Oblak, who
were indeed more concerned with texts in Old Church Slavonic,
although they did publish several old Slovene texts. This tradition of
critical editions with predominantly academic goals and specialised target
readership continued into the twentieth century. One such undertaking
was the critical edition of the Freising Manuscripts prepared by Fran
Ramovš and Milko Kos (1937). Recent editions dating from the second
half of the twentieth century include those of older literary texts, manu-
scripts, correspondence and documentary materials published by the
Slovene Academy of Sciences and Arts and its Scientific Research Cen-
tre. 4

Kopitar 1836, XXXIII-XLIV; cf. also the modern Slovene translation, Kopitar 1995.
The series includes the Freising Manuscripts (Bernik et al. 1992, 1993, 2004),
some Old Church Slavonic manuscripts, various Slovene texts from the sixteenth to
eighteenth century (works of Protestant writers, collections of poems, collections of
72 Darko Dolinar

Early publications of folk poems dating from the period of Romanti-

cism were inspired by literary taste and the ideals of national awakening
– for example, Vodnik’s and Prešeren’s redactions in the almanac
Kranjska Čbelica (‘The Carniolan bee’) in the 1830s, and books edited by
Emil Korytko (1839-44) and Stanko Vraz (1839). At the turn of the
twentieth century, Karel Štrekelj prepared a comprehensive critical edi-
tion of his Slovenske narodne pesmi (Slovene Folk Songs; 1895-1923),5
which came to be regarded as one of the greatest achievements of this
discipline by international standards, although the publisher, Slovenska
matica,6 targeted the wider public rather than specialised circles.
The destiny of editions of more recent literary works was quite differ-
ent. Owing to the state of affairs in the field of belles lettres as outlined
above, and the backwardness of literary historiography in the first half of
the nineteenth century, there was no genuine need for critical editions. In
the second half of the nineteenth century several editions of mixed type
intended for the wider public appeared, ranging from popular ones to
annotated scholarly editions. They were initially prepared by literary
writers and critics and later on by philologists. Their original intention
was to present the works of individual authors (complete or in part) and
also included the works of most widely recognised living authors. One of
the first such projects was the edition of poetry written by the most
important Romantic poet, France Prešeren, edited by the writers Josip
Stritar and Josip Jurčič (1866). The most prominent achievements are
probably the editions of prose written by Jurčič, Levstik and certain other
authors prepared by the critic Fran Levec (1882-92; 1891-95).
Editing activity became more intense in the early twentieth century.
The first solid argument for these undertakings was formulated during
the First World War by the literary historian and critic Ivan Prijatelj. In
his politically and culturally motivated call for a book series presenting

Baroque sermons), correspondences of literary and historical relevance (Trubar and

other Protestants, Čop, Vraz, Korytko, Levec, Govekar, Kidrič and Lavrin), and finally
works of philology and literary history (Pohlin, Erberg and Kidrič).
After Štrekelj’s death in 1912, the edition’s fourth volume was completed by his
student Joža Glonar.
In many Slavic countries, the matica – an association combining the functions of
reading room, publishing house and book club – was an important initiative towards
popular literacy and the status-raising of the national language (Kimball 1973). The
Slovene matica was founded in 1864; among its aims were the cultivation and dissemi-
nation of scientific learning.

classic Slovene writers (Prijatelj 1917a, 1917b), he opted for a popularly-

oriented type of edition based on critically checked texts, commentaries
and essays, but without the detailed critical apparatus that is of interest
only to specialists. This concept was employed in his edition of Jurčič’s
and Tavčar’s works in the 1920s (Prijatelj 1919-27, 1921-32). A stricter
scholarly method inspired the editions of Prešeren’s poetry by the literary
historians Avgust Žigon (1922),7 Joža Glonar and Avgust Pirjevec
(1929), and France Kidrič (1936).
Activities in this area came into full swing in the second half of the
twentieth century with editions of individual authors’ works, and several
ambitious book series supplemented with commentaries, each of which
applied textual-critical and ecdotic elements. Undoubtedly, the central
place is occupied by the representative series Zbrana dela slovenskih
pesnikov in pisateljev (‘Collected works of Slovene poets and writers’), later
dubbed the ‘Slovene classics’ . This series, which has been in progress
since 1945, runs to more than 220 volumes by c. thirty authors. Of these,
25 are complete work editions, some of them supplemented with a
monograph on the author. Eminent literary historians and critics have
participated in this project. This provides a good basis for the exemplary
identification of the main advantages, but also some drawbacks, of re-
cent edition practices.8
This series addresses both a narrow circle of specialist scholars and
the wider general readership. Therefore, much as in the case of some of
its interwar predecessors, the strict critical-editiorial principle was not
employed; instead scholarly methods were combined with approaches
that took as their point of departure accessibility for the general public.
This series played an important role in shaping the Slovene literary
canon. The selection of authors shows that while canon was already
firmly established for the nineteenth and early twentieth century , it was
still open to major changes as regards recent literature. In individual
work editions, it is telling which parts are foregroudned as core texts and
which are included as additions. Here the editors judge what is complete,
finished and aesthetically valuable, and what is merely a draft, a frag-

The book was printed in 1914, but publication was delayed due to to outbreak of
the First World War.
Cf. occasional articles by, and interviews with both general editors, Anton Ocvirk
and, after his death in 1980, France Bernik, as well as some ambitious book reviews
such as Pogačnik (1979) and, among the very rare critical works, Kramberger (1993).
74 Darko Dolinar

ment, an immature work or simply a failed attempt. In this way they

intervene almost as co-author, particularly in cases in which they deal
with comprehensive legacies where there are no testimonies to the
‘author’s will’. The editors decide which text is an original and which an
adaptation or translation, and what the most suitable arrangement of
these texts is; they decide to what extent the borderline, semi-literary and
non-literary components of particular works are taken into account.
Finally, their concessions to the readers’ receptive capacities can be in-
ferred from the way in which the language of older texts has been mod-
The series also reveals predicaments in the literary system. Obviously,
the Slovene literary market is too small to tolerate specialised scholarly
editions or perhaps bibliophile ones alongside popular editions of the
same works. This approach works only with few recognised classic au-
thors – France Prešeren, Ivan Cankar, Oton Župančič and Srečko
Kosovel. In addition, over the last few decades the country’s transition
crisis has affected publishing activity and has undermined the institu-
tional and social support of all commercially less attractive publishing
projects. This means that critical editions have primarily been the domain
of academic institutions, whose existence is not dependent on the book
market, whereas mainstream publishers undertake such projects only
exceptionally, with much difficulty and practically in defiance of com-
mercial considerations. The most illustrative example is the destiny of
the collection of classic Slovene writers that was scheduled to appear
over the past decade. It survived the abolition of the fiction programme
by its previous publisher and the collapse of its newly found publisher,
and finally found shelter under the roof of a third publisher, a student
publishing organisation.
The various types of editions presented here reveal some essential
differences. Critical editions of older texts and documentary materials are
more committed to pure scholarly criteria; they are intended primarily for
specialised circles, including international ones, and they are of less inter-
est to the general public and less open to national-ideological influences.
The editions of more recent literary works target wider and mixed read-
erships. In terms of editorial concepts they are therefore more subject to
compromises. The national ideological function attributed to these works
can be preserved in such editions.

However, this schematic division is not absolute. The Freising Manu-

scripts, one among the rare medieval Slovene texts that received the most
attention and saw the greatest number of editions, is the most character-
istic exception.9 The reasons are obvious. These manuscripts dating from
the end of the tenth century are the oldest manuscripts in any Slavic
language using the Latin alphabet, and the texts themselves are even
older than the manuscripts. They present not only the opportunity to
resolve certain philological issues relating to the history of language and
literature, but they also raise questions related to ecclesiastical, religious,
ethnic, cultural and political history. The issues related to these manu-
scripts are relevant for the broader Central European and Mediterranean
regions located at the point where the Alps, the Apennine Peninsula, the
Pannonian Plain and the Balkans meet. Scholars have expressed interest
in these texts ever since their discovery at the beginning of the nine-
teenth century. The selected bibliography includes more than six hundred
titles, including almost forty editions. Not all of these are critical – some
are adapted for textbooks, are translations, etc. – yet more than half of
them display serious scholarly intentions. In addition to Slovene editors,
there are also Czech, Slovak, Russian, Austrian and German researchers.
They illuminate this subject from various perspectives and place it in
various contexts.
One of the central questions, which has pervaded almost two hun-
dred years of debate, relates to the linguistic and ethnic origins of these
texts. Early on, Dobrovský and Kopitar advanced the thesis that the
Freising Manuscripts belong to early Slovene. In subsequent debates,
contradicting hypotheses appeared, linked the MSS to Old Church Sla-
vonic writing from ninth-century Greater Moravia and Lower Pannonia.
In accordance with various theories on the origins and emergence of Old
Church Slavonic, these hypotheses suggested either a link with Czech or
Slovak regions, or with Macedonian foundations, also allowing contacts
with the Croatian glagolitic tradition. At the root of these debates lies the
issue of the relative influence of the Western Church (through German
patterns of Slovene texts) and that of the Eastern Church (from which
ensued the mission of Cyril and Methodius).

For additional information, cf. the survey of studies by Igor Grdina and bibliogra-
phy by Marko Kranjec in the critical edition Bernik et al. 2004, 154-91. A recent
electronic critical edition (Grdina et al. 2007) has been placed online at
76 Darko Dolinar

Academic research on this issue has followed its immanent logic,

resting on the subject matter itself and the state of affairs in disciplines
concerned with it; even so, the interpretations of the findings are not
immune to ideological undertones. Discussions were not only of an
academic, scholarly import; when associating the Freising Manuscripts
with one or another contemporary Slavic nation they also revealed an
ideological dimension, a mental (historicist) template according to which
whatever is older is more precious and more valuable, and whereby the
historical rootedness of cultural patterns or values enhances their con-
temporary status.
According to the established research tradition and according to cur-
rently prevailing academic opinion, the Freising Manuscripts belong to
the early phase of Slovene, or they are most akin to it. Therefore, Slovene
national philology – or, to be more precise, linguistic, literary and cultural
history – places the manuscripts at its very beginning, which gives them
powerful symbolic meaning. It is probably no coincidence that twentieth-
century debates about the Freising Manuscripts received fresh impetus
precisely during the periods that were significant for the Slovene national
issue. Certainly, their wider popular reception is connected with this
political conjuncture. To illustrate this pattern, the most recent instance
may suffice.
In 1992, on the first anniversary of Slovene sovereignty, a critical
edition of the Freising Manuscripts was published, summarising most
previous findings. It triggered a fresh cycle of systematic research. The
book, presented in a bibliophile layout befitting the occasion, also elic-
ited a broad response among the wider public. It was followed by a
paperback reprint, an audiocassette with phonetic reconstruction of the
texts and a television broadcast. A publishing house of the Slovene mi-
nority in Italy published the translated and adapted version of this critical
edition. This provoked extensive polemics in Trieste (located in the
ethnically mixed border region and sensitive to Italian nationalist resent-
ments), in which the issues of the age, comparative advantages and value
of these texts were debated. Finally, the latest, supplemented version of
the critical edition took place in the context of the celebrations marking
Slovenia’s 2004 accession to the European Union. At that time, the four
oldest Slovene manuscripts kept at various locations in four countries
were exhibited together for the first time. This exhibition, entitled ‘The
Birth Certificate of Slovene Culture’, had so many visitors that it had to

be extended beyond its scheduled closing date. Thus, even today, critical
text editions, for all their academic and scholarly content and intent, may,
given a suitable occasion, obtain an ideological function.

Bernik, France. 2004. Iz veka v vek, iz roda v rod: ob petdesetletnici zbirke
slovenskih klasikov. In Spektrum ustvarjalnosti, 114-16. Ljubljana: Slovenska
matica. (Reprint from Delo 38, 12 December 1996: 13).
Bernik, France et al., eds. 1992. Brižinski spomeniki. Znanstvenokritična izdaja.
Ljubljana: Slovenska akademija znanosti in umetnosti, Znanst-
venoraziskovalni center SAZU and Slovenska knjiga.
Bernik, France et al., eds. 1993. Brižinski spomeniki. Znanstvenokritična izdaja. 2nd
ed.; Ljubljana: Slovenska akademija znanosti in umetnosti and
Znanstvenoraziskovalni center SAZU.
Bernik, France et al., eds. 2004. Brižinski spomeniki – Monumenta frisingensia.
Znanstvenokritična izdaja. 3rd ed, ed. Jože Faganel and Darko Dolinar.
Ljubljana: Založba ZRC, Znanstvenoraziskovalni center SAZU.
Glonar, Joža and Avgust Pirjevec, eds. 1929. Doktorja Franceta Prešerna zbrano
delo. Ljubljana: Jugoslovanska knjigarna.
Grdina, Igor et al., eds. Brižinski spomeniki: Monumenta Frisingensia. Elektronska
znanstvenokritična izdaja. Ljubljana: Inštitut za slovensko literaturo in literarne
vede ZRC SAZU. Online at
Kidrič, France, ed. 1936. Prešeren. I. Pesnitve – pisma. Ljubljana: Tiskovna
Kimball, Stanley B. 1973. The Austro-Slav Revival: A Study of Nineteenth-century
Literary Foundations. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.
Kopitar, Bartholomaeus (Jernej). 1836. Glagolita Clozianus. Vindobonae (Vi-
Kopitar, Jernej. 1995. Jerneja Kopitarja Glagolita Clozianus – Cločev glagolit. Ed. Jože
Toporišič; Ljubljana: Filozofska fakulteta, Oddelek za slovanske jezike in
književnosti, Seminar slovenskega jezika, literature in kulture.
Korytko, Emil, ed. 1839-44. Slovenske pesmi krajnskiga naroda. 5 vols.; Ljubljana:
Kramberger, Igor. 1993. Sociologija filološko-založniške institucije. Doctoral
thesis, Univ. Ljubljana.
Krek, Gregor. 1874. Einleitung in die slavische Literaturgeschichte und Darstellung ihrer
älteren Perioden. Theil 1. Graz.
Krek, Gregor. 1887. Einleitung in die slavische Literaturgeschichte: Akademische Vor-
lesungen, Studien und kritische Streifzüge. 2nd ed. of Krek 1874. Graz.
Levec, Fran, ed. 1882-92. Josipa Jurčiča zbrani spisi. 11 vols.; Ljubljana.
Levec, Fran, ed. 1891-95. Levstikovi zbrani spisi. 5 vols.; Ljubljana.
78 Darko Dolinar

Merchiers, Ingrid. 2005. Cultural Nationalism in the South Slav Habsburg

Lands in the Early Nineteenth Century: The Scholarly Network of Jernej
Kopitar (1780-1844). Doctoral thesis, Univ. Gent.
Ocvirk, Anton. 1954. Zbrana dela slovenskih pesnikov in pisateljev: razgovor z
glavnim urednikom dr. Antonom Ocvirkom. Naši razgledi 3.23 (4 Dec.):
Ocvirk, Anton. 1965. Zbrana dela slovenskih pesnikov in pisateljev. In Dvajset
let Državne založbe Slovenije, 21-28. Ljubljana: Državna založba Slovenije.
Ocvirk, Anton. 1971. Sto knjig slovenskih klasikov. Govor ob jubilejni knjigi.
Naši razgledi 20.22 (26 Nov.): 670-71.
Pogačnik, Jože. 1979. Kritična izdaja in njeni problemi: ob sklepu Cankarjevega
Zbranega dela. Naši razgledi 20.1 (26 Jan.): 40-41.
Prijatelj, Ivan. 1917a. O izdaji naših klasikov. Naša knjiga (supplement to
Ljubljanski zvon) 1.2: 5-7.
Prijatelj, Ivan, 1917b. O ureditvi naših klasikov. Naša knjiga (supplement to
Ljubljanski zvon) 1.3: 10-12.
Prijatelj, Ivan, ed. 1919-27. Josipa Jurčiča zbrani spisi. 5 vols.; Ljubljana: Tiskovna
Prijatelj, Ivan, ed. 1921-32. Ivana Tavčarja zbrani spisi. 6 vols.; Ljubljana:
Tiskovna zadruga.
Pypin, Aleksandr N. and Vladimir Spasovich. 1864. Obzor istorii slavianskikh
literatur. St. Petersburg.
Pypin, Aleksandr N. and Vladimir Spasovich. 1879-80. Istoriia slavianskikh
literatur. 2 vols.;St. Petersburg. (2nd, expanded ed. of Pypin and Spasovich
Ramovš, Fran, Milko Kos, eds. 1937. Brižinski spomeniki. Uvod, paleografski in
fonetični prepis, prevod v knjižno slovenščino, faksimile pergamentov. Ljubljana:
Akademska biblioteka.
Schaffarik, Paul J. 1826. Geschichte der slavischen Sprache und Literatur nach allen
Mundarten. Ofen (Pest).
Stritar, Josip and Josip Jurčič, eds. 1866. Pesmi Franceta Preširna. Ljubljana.
Štrekelj, Karel, ed. 1895-1923. Slovenske narodne pesmi. 4 vols.; Ljubljana: Slovens-
ka matica.
Vraz, Stanko, ed. 1839. Narodne pesni ilirske, koje se pevaju po Štajerskoj, Kranjskoj,
Koruškoj i zapadnoj strani Ugarske. Zagreb.
Žigon, Avgust, ed. 1922. Prešernova čitanka. Prevalje: Mohorjeva družba.
EUROPEAN STUDIES 26 (2008): 79-90


Paulius V. Subačius

The earliest Lithuanian and Latvian editorial efforts intended to show
that behind the scarcity of mature literary works there existed an
older medieval, orally transmitted cultural tradition. Its rediscovery
was mostly assigned to folklore publications which were remarkable
for their philological quality. The professional collection of folklore
was likewise more advanced than that of ancient manuscripts. The
character of the first annotated folklore editions was determined by
the fact that they were addressed not only to local readers, but also to
foreign linguists, whose interest in the Baltic languages required an
exact rendering of textual features. The modern national literature
drew its pedigree from folk culture and folklore publications, side-
lining the heritage of written (religious and didactic) literary sources.

Scholarly editing of oral literature is one of the youngest among the

branches of textual scholarship. It involves very complicated issues such
as the extent and variation of the text, as well as ways of conveying the
characteristics of its performance in the apparatus (Foley 1995). How-
ever, in this context the first philological editions in the Baltic languages
seem paradoxically situated.
In Latvia and Lithuania, the first vernacular editions indicating early
stirrings of textological awareness appeared at the beginning of the nine-
teenth century. The great majority of these editions were publications of
folklore, especially of the texts of folksongs. The impact of these
publications on modern Lithuanian and Latvian culture and national
awareness was huge (Kiaupa 2002, Snyder 2003). Typologically it
80 Paulius V. Subačius

matches the influence exercised on West-European nations by the Ro-

mantic recovery of vernacular medieval literature and its introduction
into literary and cultural circulation (Leerssen 2004).
In the period under discussion (1807-1915), both Baltic nations be-
longed to the Russian empire, except for roughly one fifth of the Lithua-
nian population which lived in the north-eastern part of the Kingdom of
Prussia (the area known as Lithuania Minor). Prior to the twentieth cen-
tury, Latvians had never had their own state. Although the states to
which the Latvians belonged changed through the ages, Latvian culture
and language had been under the constant influence of a German nobil-
ity from twelfth-century Christianization onwards (Puisāns 1995). In
Lithuania, from the sixteenth century onwards the language carrying
cultural prestige had Polish. Lithuanians lost their joint confederate state
with Poland at the end of the eighteenth century (Bumblauskas 1999, 88-
91; Gerutis 1984).
The incorporation of Lithuania and Latvia into Russia revealed clearly
that the new suzerain was far less European (Western-oriented) than the
subject peoples themselves, who responded with several uprisings (1794,
1831, 1863). The repression of these uprisings was itself a great blow to
traditional forces within Lithuanian and Latvian societies. ‘Battle losses,
emigration to Western Europe, exile to the east, estate confiscation and
cultural russification all changed the political mood. As the peasantry’s
and the intelligentsia’s role became ever clearer, the gentry’s position in
society began to weaken’ (Rowell at al., 2002, 25). A new intelligentsia,
clerical and secular, emerged from among the emancipated peasantry.
‘An understanding gradually emerged that Lithuanian [and Latvian] was
not just an ethnic language but national one.’ Thanks to church schools
in Latvia and secret village schools in Lithuania, where children were
taught their native language, the Baltic countries by the end of nineteenth
century became the most literate area in the Russian Empire (ibid., 28).
The first books in Latvian and Lithuanian had been sixteenth-century
catechisms (Žukas 1999, 10, 16), later followed by numerous translated
and original religious texts, as well as linguistic instruments, such as
dictionaries and grammars. Some secular publications in the form of
occasional and didactic works also appeared. Nevertheless, in the two
Baltic languages the first poetic works that could claim to be significant
landmarks in the national literature were written only in the second half
of the eighteenth century. It is important to note that in Lithuania and

Latvia during the period from the thirteenth to nineteenth century the
local population, as well as settlers from other countries, were prolific in
different genres in other languages: Latin, Polish, German, Yiddish, and
East Slavic languages (Kubilius et al., 1997). The absence of state institu-
tions, along with other factors, determined, however, that a modern
Lithuanian and Latvian sense of national identity was established along
linguistic-ethnographic, rather than political, principles. Therefore texts
written in other languages were marginal to an emerging national culture.
Acceptance of those texts as part of the Lithuanian and Latvian cultural
heritage spread only by the end of the twentieth century (Ulčinaitė 1996,
Narbutas 2000).
Thus, as a result of the dearth of the ancient written texts and
authorial literature in the vernacular languages, the very first efforts to
search for national origins were directed almost exclusively towards
folklore. These efforts were inspired by intellectual factors current in
many parts of Europe: the influence of Macpherson’s Ossian, and espe-
cially of the German philosophers’ and philologists’ ideas on vernacular
language and folk culture. Herder’s two-volume collection of Volkslieder
(1778-79; now better known under the title of the 1807 re-edition as
Stimmen der Völker in Liedern), contained some Lithuanian and Latvian
songs. This collection provided European philologists with their first
extensive acquaintance with Baltic oral literature. Reciprocally, its impact
was far more important. For a hundred years it was quoted in Lithuania
and Latvia as an argument that Baltic folklore, and by implication the
Baltic languages and nations, stood as equals alongside other European
In addition to this general Romantic atmosphere, there was another
formative reason for the incipient interest in Lithuanian and Latvian
folklore: the emergence of comparative linguistics. The very founders of
the theory of Indo-European affinity had already asserted that, among
the living languages of the Indo-European family, the Baltic languages
best preserved ancient forms. Therefore almost all prominent nineteenth-
century European linguists included the Baltic languages in their studies
(Žukas 1999, 22). What is more, the most suitable resource in order to
identify the archaic strata of language was considered to lie in the folk
tradition, rather than in authorial works or in contemporary usage. As a
result, philologically-qualified publications on Baltic folklore could count
on an interested academic readership abroad even before they appeared.
82 Paulius V. Subačius

At home, the protagonists of the national movements took pride in the

fact that the famous European scholars paid attention to the ‘tunes of
simple country folk’. ‘Folk culture and folk creations were lifted to the
range of the highest culture’ (Subačius 1996, 7).
The first separately published collection of the Lithuanian folk songs
was entitled Dainos oder Litthauische Volkslieder (1825) and contained 85
folklore texts (Rhesa 1825). It was edited by Liudvikas Rėza (German
spelling: Rhesa; 1776-1840), a Lutheran clergyman of Lithuanian extrac-
tion and professor of oriental languages and theology in Königsberg
University. He had earlier brought out re-editions of two almost
hundred-year-old translations of the Bible into Lithuanian (Biblia 1816,
1824), followed by two voluminous parts of ‘philological critical notes’
(Rhesa 1816-24).
The connection between high philology and the publication of folk
songs is neither straightforward nor coincidental; both involved text-
ological skills. The collection of songs is a parallel edition: Lithuanian
texts and their German translations are printed on facing pages. The
melodies for seven of the songs are appended; so is a synoptic article,
which not only stresses the importance and distinctiveness of the oral
corpus but also presents a synopsis of Lithuanian folklore scholarship
and previous (piecemeal) publications. Some songs are accompanied by
an account of the circumstances in which they were recorded and of the
performative context.
As far as one can see from the surviving fragments of Rėza’s archive,
around 60% of the published texts fairly accurately represent the texts
recorded by the nine assistants who helped Rėza in the collection of
folklore. Besides, in his letter (dated 20 March 1826) to Johann Wolfgang
Goethe from whom he expected assistance in the publication of the
collection, Rėza asserts that he has witnesses who would confirm that
the editor faithfully represented and rendered the texts that were sent to
him (cf. Jovaišas 1969, 273).
Three editorial interventions in this collection are obvious: the selec-
tion of the included songs from a larger collection of recorded folklore;
the grouping of the texts by genre and theme; and the fact that the songs
carry thematically indicative titles – which Lithuanian folksongs, usually
identified by their first line, do not possess.
Other editorial interventions on Rėza’s part are of an entirely differ-
ent nature. They are strictly at odds with the philological principles while

reflecting current attitudes towards folk creativity. Archival and textual

criticism research shows that three songs in the collection were actually
written by Rėza himself (Jovaišas 1969, 256-90). These songs draw on
Lithuanian folklore models and on materials concerning Latvian mythol-
ogy and cosmology published at the end of the eighteenth century
(Bojtár 1999, Ābols 2002). This mythology is treated as representing the
shared inheritance of the ancient culture of the Balts. The chief and
perhaps the only aim of this forgery was to demonstrate that Lithuanian
folklore contains mythological material, and as such conveys information
about the deepest layers of the nation’s past. As Rėza wrote in his com-
mentaries, he had no doubt that the songs featuring mythological events,
such as ‘The Wedding of the Moon’, had been composed in pagan antiq-
uity (Rhesa 1825, 333).
In reality, authentic Lithuanian folk songs (unlike the Latvian ones)
almost never contain mythological material (such as references to gods,
goddesses or anthropomorphised heavenly bodies). Rėza, on the other
hand, created texts about the wedding of the moon and the sun, or about
the god Perkūnas (thunder). The circle of his correspondents and his
philological interests attest that Rėza was directly influenced by Jacob
Grimm’s ideas on the intertwining of mythology and historical reality in
the epics. Through his forgery, Rėza gave rise to the tradition which
seeks to detect in the Lithuanian folklore the fragments of a lost, primor-
dial national epic. This tradition has its adherents in Lithuania to this day
and retains its academic status despite the fact that it has been exploded
on the basis of textual and editorial evidence.
And another group of inauthentic texts found its way into this collec-
tion – a result, not of conscious forgery, but of uncritical source selection
of the sources and the wish to publish as many songs as possible. These
are the texts taken from the secondary sources without checking their
reliability or, in a particularly interesting instance, the songs who were
translated back into Lithuanian by Rėza himself from earlier fragmentary
publications in German.
It is instructive to compare this publication of oral material with the
same philologist’s publication of an authorial text. In 1818 Rėza pub-
lished the first edition of The Seasons, a poem by the late-eighteenth cen-
tury Lithuanian writer Kristijonas Donelaitis (1714-1780), considered a
classic of the Lithuanian literature (Rhesa 1818). Although the editor
relied on the autograph, he took many more liberties with the authorial
84 Paulius V. Subačius

text than he had done with the folklore ones. Out of the poem’s 2968
lines he deleted 468, changing characters’ names and otherwise altering
the text. The principal reasons for these changes were aesthetic and
moralistic. The passages that were omitted or transformed were the ones
which, according to the editor’s opinion, contradicted ‘good taste’,
clashed with the pastoral image of the Lithuanian peasants’ life, or criti-
cised Prussian authorities. While Rėza’s statements concerning the au-
thenticity of the folk songs was, as we have seen, less than well-founded,
still his editorial policy was guided by the principle of faithful textual
rendering; but in his interference with Donelaitis’ manuscript he con-
sciously disregarded the author’s intention or the documentary evidence.
The attitude seems to be that the folk texts should be presented as au-
thentically as possible, whereas authorial works can be safely edited
according to the editor’s taste and the target audience. In Lithuania this
editorial stance was dominant throughout most of the nineteenth cen-
tury. The Romantic attitude towards folklore reached the Baltic nations
almost a hundred years earlier than the modern concept of authorship.
It is illustrative to compare these two editions by Rėza with the edito-
rial strategy of the German philologist G.H.F. Nesselmann, who pub-
lished the same texts a quarter of a century later. In diametrical opposi-
tion to Rėza, Nesselmann published Donelaitis’ text (Nesselmann 1869)
scrupulously following the autograph and the earliest copy, and accu-
rately retaining diacritical signs and other features; whereas in his edition
of 410 folk songs, compiled mostly from Rėza and other earlier editions,
Nesselmann (1853), on the contrary, shortened, supplemented, emended
and reworked the texts. Thus he removes segments that were, in his
view, contaminated; in several cases he splits into two works that are on
record as one song; in other cases he welds verses from several songs
into one. Such interventions were motivated by his individual taste and
the idea that texts should be subjected to the methods of comparative
reconstructive linguistics.
Rėza’s folksong edition was favourably reviewed by Goethe and by
Jacob Grimm. These endorsements encouraged foreign scholars’ interest
in the Baltic nations, and acted as a powerful boost to the few nationally-
motivated members of the Lithuanian intelligentsia. In their eyes, publi-
cations that were succesful in the international literary system enhanced
chances national self-expression.

The first edition of Latvian songs appeared somewhat earlier than Rėza’s
work and in more extensive form. In 1807 by Gustav Bergmann
(1749-1814), a Lutheran priest, who himself collected the texts and
printed them at the printing-house on the island of Rujen, in the prov-
ince of Latvia; the printing-house he had established himself. Bergmann
is typologically akin to Rėza in that he also had edited and published a
(Latvian) Bible translation. Although Bergmann had high philological
ambitions as an editor, his edition of folk songs contains ill-understood
and poorly recorded words; also, authentically traditional texts are inter-
mixed with newer songs of various origins. The edition also lacks a
philological apparatus.
A much higher editorial standard is attested by a collection, modest in
its extent – the texts of only 30 Lithuanian songs – which in 1829 was
published in Vilnius by Simonas Stanevičius (1799-1848). Stanevičius, a
beggared nobleman and a poet who had graduated in Classics from
Vilnius University, was the first Lithuanian who sought to earn his living
as a free-lance professional philologist. Before he published the collec-
tion of songs, he had edited and published selections from a sixteenth-
century Lithuanian book of sermons, as well as a new edition of an early
eighteenth-century grammar, in Latin, of the Lithuanian language
(Stanevičius 1823, 1829). Stanevičius’ collection was marked by strict
selection criteria. He included only one fifth of the texts that he had at
his disposal, clearly listing the criteria of selection in the ‘Introduction’:
archaic nature, internal coherence of the text, complexity as a song. The
songs are carefully recorded and numbered, and many are accompanied
by linguistic and factual comments. In his commentaries, Stanevičius
evinces trenchant historicism, as against romantic idealization:
Tykietise idant butu daynas nu karzigiu senowes Lituwiu yr Zemaycziu
kures daynewa Waydelotay musu zemes wiresnynjey yr daynynynkay, ira
tuszczia dyngstys. Waykay sawa tiewu daynas atkartodamy wadyn tay
senowes daynomys yr nor jas uzmyrszty; ko taygy benoriety idant daynas
Wai[d]elotu pyrm 400 yr 500 metu daynujemas, szendin pazynstamas butu?
Mazne be abejojyma galu sakity jog wysas szendin randamas Zemaycziu
daynas nier ankstibesnes uz (...) XVIII amziaus (...).1

Stanevičius 1829, [6]: ‘A hope to have songs from olden times of valiant Lithuani-
ans and Samogitians that were sung by high-priests and songsters of our land is but a
vain hope. Children who repeat songs of their fathers call them songs of antiquity and
hasten to forget them; how then could one wish for the songs of high-priests, sung
400 or 500 years ago, to be current today? Without hesitation I could say that all
Samogitian songs that are found today are not anterior to the eighteenth century.’
86 Paulius V. Subačius

The musical scores for all the published songs were published four years
later (Stanevičius 1833). Stanevičius disseminated these and other
publications with the declared aim of nurturing national culture and
national awareness.
A substantial part of the gentry intellectuals in Lithuania (bilingually
Polish- and Lithuanian-speaking) felt sympathy for Lithuanian language
and folklore. ‘Interest of Baltic Germans intellectuals in popular culture
was not very wide and did not transgress the limits of purely scholarly
concern. Even sympathetically to popular culture disposed Baltic Ger-
man intellectuals held German culture superior’ (Pivoras 1996, 7). Either
negatively or positively, this scholarly concern fed into the ambitious
scheme, in the mid-century, of publishing a full corpus of Latvian songs.
The somewhat utopian plan took shape in sections of the Lettisch-Literäri-
sche Gesellschaft (Latvian Literary Society, composed of Germans). Latvian
songs are short, consisting mostly of a single stanza, and thus it was
possible for collections of thousands of songs to appear earlier on in
Latvia. In 1844 Georg Büttner (1805-1883) published, under the aegis of
the Lettisch-Literärische Gesellschaft a collection of ‘The Songs and zinges of
Latvian People’ (Büttner 1844) comprising 2854 texts, and with an ap-
pendix of Clarifications and Remarks. In 1874-1875 the same Society, to
celebrate its anniversary, printed in Leipzig two volumes of ‘The songs
of the Latvian Nation’, Latviešu tautas dziesmas (edited by August Bielen-
stein, 1826-1907). This edition was intended to run to four volumes and
to contain all of the material collected; it was never completed, and only
4793 out of the expected number of 10.000 texts have been published.
Lithuanian folk songs are much lengthier (often more than twelve
stanzas), which explains why the collection of 7000 songs compiled in
the 1850s and 1860s by the Lithuanian Catholic priest Antanas Juška
(1818-1880) far exceeds the Latvian collections in size. Four volumes,
almost a thousand pages each, were published in 1880-1883 in Russia
through the efforts of his brother, the philologist Jonas Juška
(1815-1886), comprise only a third of the manuscript collection (Juška
1880-82, 1883). The volumes were disseminated legally only outside
Lithuania, because in the period between 1864 and 1904 the Russian
Imperial administration had prohibited the use of the Latin alphabet in
Lithuanian-language publications. The Catholic clergy played a signifi-
cant role in the Lithuanian national awakening movement and in the
resistance against the printing ban. Bishops organized the publication of

Lithuanian books in Eastern Prussia and other countries (Baronas et al.,

2002, 124-5). Among numerous illegal production smuggled into Rus-
sian-ruled Lithuania were not only religious books, but also editions of
oral literature.
Juška’s collection establishes a textual corpus in that in the course of
preparation of his hefty books some 5000 songs were collected in one
parish alone. The folklore publications by the Latvian mathematician and
astronomer Krišjānis Barons (1835-1923) ran to even greater girth. His
fifteen-part annotated collection of ‘Latvian songs’ (Barons 1894-1915)
contains over 200.000 songs along with their variants. In 1880, Barons
captured his great collection of recorded songs in a huge card-catalogue;
the basis of a folklore archive which became the first national repository
of the Latvian cultural heritage, and which was eventually entrusted to
the newly-established independent state of Latvia. Likewise the archive
of the Lithuanian Scientific Society (established in 1907), the first nation-
wide collection of the Lithuanian cultural inheritance, was initially also
largely a depository of folklore records. Both Jonas Basanavičius
(1851-1927), the founder of the Society and its archive, and the Latvian
Barons, came to be called the patriarchs of their nations even during
their lifetime (Senn 1985, 311-5; Bleiere et al. 2006, 42).
Owing to the specific nature of folklore publication it is difficult to
identify any specific textological approach in these Lithuanian and Lat-
vian editions of folksong. The editors’ professional and educational
background indicates a some familiarity with Biblical and Classical stud-
ies; one cannot state anything more specific than that. An peculiar fea-
ture of these editions is the effort to retain, as precisely as possible, the
linguistic forms, the accidentals of the texts. In this respect the attention
of the linguists engaged in the Indo-European research was decisive. It
was also one of the reasons that editions which had been undertaken for
a narrow goal – to bolster national self-esteem – were at the same time
also circulated in European academic circles. Later on, bilingual parallel
editions of songs became reference materials for comparative research
into folklore and mythology, with a methodology borrowed from linguis-
tics. Thus, the early philological editions of the Baltic nations, despite
representing exotic languages, were never a closed book to Europe-at-
The Latvian and Lithuanian nationalist ideology that had proclaimed
the distinctiveness of ancient pagan Baltic culture determined literary and
88 Paulius V. Subačius

linguistic interest in folklore. The modern national literature drew its

pedigree straight from folk culture, sidelining and marginalising the
heritage of religious and didactic literature. The folksong editions were
(alongside writers’ own rootedness in an environment naturally perme-
ated by folklore), an important factor in this process. For it is precisely
these folksongs editions whose influence one recognises in the lavish
inclusion of folklore material in those works of literature which them-
selves were not in direct contact with living tradition. An exceptionally
telling case is the Latvian poet Andrejs Pumpurs (1841-1902). In 1888 he
published an epic in Latvian entitled The Bear-slayer. It was based on a
wide range of folklore literature and imitated Finno-Ugric, as well as
medieval, epics of a heroic and mythological nature. As most of the
notorious counterfeit fabrications of folklore had already been exposed
at the time, Pumpurs decided not hide his authorship. We are talking
about the period when the standard norm of the Lithuanian and Latvian
languages was taking shape. In this process, the examples of folklore, as
well as the material from the editions of folk literature, largely overshad-
owed that experience of the unification of language which was accumu-
lated in textual sources such as Bible translations or religious songs.
The main issue remains this: in Lithuania and Latvia the re-evaluation
of old local cultural traditions was mostly manifested in folklore publica-
tions. In their level of philological preparation these were ahead of liter-
ary editions by more than a half-century. Since, in the beginning of the
twentieth century, the newly emerging national states of Lithuania and
Latvia were formed on the basis of the ethno-linguistic concept of na-
tionality, folklore editions played an important part, not only in nation-
building but also in state-formation.

Ābols, Guntars. 2002. The Contribution of History to Latvian identity. Riga:
Nacionālais apgāds.
Baronas, Darius et al. 2002. Christianity in Lithuania. Vilnius: Aidai.
Barons, Krišjānis. 1894-1915. Latvju dainas: Chansons nationales lataviennes. 6 vols.;
Jelgava & St. Petersburg.
Biblia. 1816. Biblia, tai esti: Wissas Szwentas Rásztas Séno ir Naujo Testamento […],
Nů keliû Mokytojû Lietuwoj Lietuwiszkay perstattytas, Dabar isz naujo pérweizdētas
ir tréczą Kartą iszspáustas. Karaliaučius.

Biblia. 1824. Biblia, tai esti: Wissas Szwentas Rásztas Séno ir Naujo Testamento,
Lietuwiszkay pérstattytas, isz naujo pérweizdētas Ir ketwirtą kartą iszspáustas. Tilžė.
Bielenstein, August. 1874-75. Latviešu tautas dziesmas. 2 vols., Jelgava.
Bleiere, Daina et al. 2006. History of Latvia: The Twentieth Century. Riga: Jumava.
Bojtár, Endre. 1999. Foreword to the Past: A Cultural History of the Baltic People.
Budapest: CEU Press.
[Bumblauskas, Alfredas]. 1999. History. Lithuania. Vilnius: Du Ka,
Büttner, Georg. 1844. Latviešu laužu dziesmas un zinges. Jelgava.
Foley, John Miles. 1995. Folk Literature. In Scholarly Editing: A Guide to Research,
ed D. C. Greetham, 600-626. New York: MLA.
Gerutis, Albertas (ed.). 1984. Lithuania: 700 years. New York: Manyland books.
Jovaišas, Albinas. Liudvikas Rėza (Vilnius: Vaga, 1969),
Juška, Antanas. 1880-82. Liėtùviškos dájnos. 3 vols.; Kazan;
Juška, Antanas. 1883. Liėtùviškos svotbinės dájnos. St. Petersburg
Kiaupa, Zigmantas et al. 2002. The history of the Baltic countries. 3rd rev.
ed.Tallinn: Avita.
Kubilius, Vytautas et al. 1997. Lithuanian literature. Vilnius: LLTI.
Leerssen, Joep. 2004. Literary historicism: Romanticism, philologists, and the
presence of the past. Modern language quarterly 65.2: 221-243.
Narbutas, Sigitas. 2000. The Mysterious Island: a Review of 13th-16th Century Litera-
ture of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Vilnius: LLTI.
Nesselmann, G.H.F. 1853 Littauische Volkslieder, gesammelt kritisch bearbeitet und
metrisch übersetzt. Berlin.
Nesselmann, G.H.F. 1869. Christian Donalitius Littauische Dichtungen nach Königs-
berg Handschriften. Königsberg.
Pivoras, Saulius. 1995. The Development of Lithuanian and Latvian Civic Self-conscious-
ness during the End of XVIII – First Half of XIX Centuries: A Comparative As-
pect. Vilnius: VU.
Plakans, Andrejs. 1974. Peasants, Intellectuals, and Nationalism in the Russian
Baltic Provinces, 1820-90. Journal of modern history, 46: 445-475.
Puisāns, Tadeušs. 1995. The Emerging Nation: The Path of Agonizing Development
from Baltic Tribalism to Latvian Nationhood. Rīga: Centre of Baltic-Nordic
History and Political Studies.
Pumpurs, Andrējs. 1888. Lāčplēsis, latvju tautas varonis: Tautas epus. Riga.
Rhesa, L.J. 1816-24. Philologisch-kritische Anmerkungen zur litthauischen Bibel. 2 vols.
Rhesa, L.J. 1818. Das Jahr in vier Gesängen, ein ländliches Epos aus dem Littauischen
des Christian Donaleitis, genannt Donalitius, in gleichem Versmaaß ins Deutsche
übertragen. Königsberg.
Rhesa, L.J. 1825. Dainos oder Litthauische Volkslieder gesammelt, uebersetzt und mit
gegenueberstehendem Urtext herausgegeben. Nebst einer Abhandlung ueber die litthaui-
schen Volksgedichte. Königsberg.
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Senn, Alfred Erich. 1985. The Lithuanian Intelligentsia of the Nineteenth

Century. In National Movements in the Baltic Countries during the Nineteenth
Century, ed. A. Loit, 311-315. Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell.
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Belarus, 1569-1999. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
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Stanevičius, Simonas. 1829a. Daynas Żemaycziu surynktas yr ysżdutas par Symona
Stanewicze Mokslynynka Lyteraturas yr Grażiuju Prytirymu. Vilnius.
Stanevičius, Simonas. 1829b. Trumpas pamokimas kałbos Lituwyszkos arba
Żemaytyszkos nuo nekurio nobazna ysz draugistes Jezaus Kunyga lotinyszkay
paraszitas yr spaustas Wyjlniuj’ metuse 1737. dabarcziu atrastas yr ysznauja swiêtuy
parôditas. Vilnius.
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Żemaycziu surynktù yr yszdûtu par Symona Stanèwicze Môkslynynka Lyteratùras yr
Graźiùju Prytirymu. Riga.
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Ulčinaitė, Eugenija. 1996. Baroque Literature in Lithuania. Vilnius: Baltos lankos.
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EUROPEAN STUDIES 26 (2008): 91-107



Paula Henrikson

Competing Danish and Swedish editions of the Scania province law
exemplify the role of textual editing for nation-building in Scandina-
via. A Danish province up to the seventeenth century, Scania has
since 1658 been Swedish territory. This has made the Scania province
law, which dates from the Middle Ages, a cultural heirloom of two
nations, Sweden and Denmark. The editions of the law, which have
been produced in both countries from the seventeenth to the twenti-
eth century, express their national bias not only in the introductions
but also through elements such as the evaluation of manuscripts, the
treatment of text and commentary, and visual codes such as format
and layout. On the whole, editing proves to be a means of defining
nationality and social identities, fundamentally determined by the
editor's preconceptions and prejudices.

Gary Taylor has compared scholarly editing to the battle between Per-
sians and Greeks over the dead body of Leonidas: the text, though pow-
erless and dead, is the object of scholarly contest (Taylor 1994, 19). With
this drastic image Taylor calls attention to the symbolic character of
textual scholarship. The editors pursue their task driven by ambitions
and interests which, though seldom verbalised, nevertheless form the
basis for their historical commitment. Power over the corpus of the text
gives power over history as well, and over the understanding of history.
Traditionally, scholarly editing has elicited only sparse theoretical
(even though frequent methodological) interest. The old notion of schol-
arly editing as the ‘handmaid’ of the higher criticism has been persistent.
92 Paula Henrikson

To see in editing a disinterested task has also been the prerequisite guar-
antee for its claim to authority. The representation of history that an
edited text embodies secures its reliability through the notion of editing
as an objective, neutral and unbiased activity. And vice versa: if the
conditions of scholarly editing must be understood as variable with the
editor’s theoretical and historical bias, how is it possible to justify an
endeavour which claims to produce the material foundations for compre-
hensive and unprejudiced research?
In an ongoing project I explore the tradition of Swedish scholarly
editing from the Renaissance to present times, raising questions of ideol-
ogy, power, and responsibility. The historical perspective is meant to lay
open the preconditions of textual scholarship, important for present
scholarly editing as well. At the same time the approach is meta-histori-
cal: my attention is directed above all to the history of historical under-
standing and historical consciousness. Why do we turn to the texts of
history? What questions do we hope that the texts will answer? What use
do we believe we have of history? Issues like these have been raised
through the narrative turn of historical theory during the last decades,
represented by names such as Hayden White, Paul Ricoeur and Jörn
Rüsen. I should like to place scholarly editing in this context.
The modern philologies built their claim to legitimacy on nineteenth-
century historicism and its notions about source-critical scholarly meth-
ods whose results were founded in positive fact rather than in opinion-
ated preconceptions. But this increasing commitment to the ‘scientific’ –
understood as a disinterested striving for objectivity – tended also to veil
the roots in ideology which brought forth the philological discipline. In
hermeneutic terms, the modern, methodologically advanced philology
was prone to mask its origins in romanticism’s notions about the uses of
history and the ideal of the nation.
In this way also the dependence of textual scholarship on societal
interests became obscured. Yet observing textual editing from an histori-
cal perspective makes transparent the fact that texts at all times have
been edited with specific – societal, ideological and aesthetic – purposes
in view, and that such preconceptions govern the editorial choices. The
same insight provided the point of departure for the scholars who to-
wards the end of the 20th century, aimed at re-evaluating the task of
textual criticism in terms of a social and historical understanding of

literature, as advocated by scholars such as Jerome J. McGann, D.C.

Greetham and Peter Shillingsburg.
McGann opposes the view that the purpose of textual criticism is to
establish texts for the literary critics. This, he points out, is in actual fact
only a specialised application of the text-critical method. Its general use
is much larger: textual criticism provides the tools for studying the his-
tory of texts and the history of their reception, both of which are decisive
for constructing a work’s literary meaning (e.g. McGann 1985, 180–99).
Greetham focuses on similar phenomena when he argues how our
ways of reading always correspond to the ideological and technical in-
structions embedded in an edition’s mode of presenting its material. The
success of the clear reading text was historically and ideologically condi-
tioned, just as the present-day concern with variation and polyphony is
an expression of a post-modern view of literature. ‘My point’, Greetham
writes, ‘is that there is no inherent physical display of text and apparatus
that is more natural to a specific work than any other’ – all editing is an
ideological construction.1 Shillingsburg’s conclusion drawn from a simi-
lar line of argument is that, instead of hunting for the right text, both
readers and editors ought to make themselves aware of how theoretical,
institutional and social conditions govern the formation of all the texts
we work with (e.g. Shillingsburg 1997).
The re-assessment of the task of textual criticism should be seen in
terms of a new-historicist view of literature that aims at investigating, on
the one hand, the textuality of history, and on the other hand, the historicity of
texts.2 History is a text: this implies that it is governed by rhetorical, ideo

Greetham 1993, 14: ‘While he was thinking of schools of cultural or aesthetic
criticism rather than schools of textual editing, Terry Eagleton’s dictum, “Ideology,
like halitosis is(...) what the other person has”, could equally well apply to an editor’s
conviction that his or her method of textual display has no ideological content and is
somehow natural and proper to the work being edited. My point is that there is no
inherent physical display of text and apparatus that is more natural to a specific work
than any other, and that each display carries the codes of meaning the editor designs as
part of the total ideological construct.’
The term derives from Montrose 1989, 242: ‘By the historicity of texts, I mean to
suggest the cultural specificity, the social embedment, of all modes of writing – not
only the texts that critics study but also the texts in which we study them. By the
textuality of history, I mean to suggest, firstly, that we can have no access to a full and
authentic past, a lived material existence, unmediated by the surviving textual traces of
the society in question – traces whose survival we cannot assume to be merely con-
tingent but must rather presume to be at least partially consequent upon complex and
subtle social processes of preservation and effacement; and secondly, that those textual
94 Paula Henrikson

logical and narrative strategies. Texts, in their turn, have a history – this
implies that they do not exist above or outside history, but must be stud-
ied in all their historical instability. Empirical facts, too, are constructed
from notions of the nature of history: there is no Archimedean point to
stand on in the world of texts.
It is from the example of the Scania Province Law, a text over which
both Danish and Swedish editors have fought for rightful possession,
that I wish to discuss the relationship between textual editing and ideol-
ogy. I restrict myself to the printed editions of the law’s Scanian text, and
thus leave aside, among other things, the translations to modern Danish
and Swedish, not so much for theoretical as for practical reasons. One
particular aspect of editorial preconception will be the focus of my inter-
est, namely the interconnection between national allegiance, nation build-
ing and textual editing. Several interesting aspects of the law’s editorial
history thus will be left out of my present considerations – among these
are largely, for instance, the issues of legal and linguistic history. I should
also add that I will mainly examine what might be called the rhetoric of
the editions, manifested not least in their paratexts (such as format and
illustrations), and thus leave aside all evaluation of the actual editorial
Scania nowadays is a province on the southern edge of Sweden, but it
has been so for only 350 years. Before that, it was one of the most im-
portant provinces of Denmark, harbouring, notably, the Danish episco-
pal see. The Scania Law was drawn up in the thirteenth century, and it is
also Denmark’s oldest surviving law text. But in consequence of Scania’s
changed national appurtenance, the Scania Law acquired double owner-
ship: both Swedes and Danes have laid claim to the monument. It is this
double possession that I wish to explore.
The editio princeps of the law was brought out in 1505.3 This was in a
small quarto service edition printed by Gotfred af Ghemen in Copenha-
gen. It derived from a recent, and subsequently lost, manuscript, said in
the title of the edition to be ‘wæl offuer seeth och rættelighe corrigeret’
(‘well overseen and set right with corrections’). The flyleaf carries the

traces are themselves subject to subsequent textual mediations when they are con-
strued as the “documents” upon which historians ground their own texts, called “histo-
The title of the edition is Hær begynnes skonskæ logh paa ræth danskæ, och ær skifft i xvij
bøgher oc hwer bogh haffuer sith register. ok ær wæl offuer seeth och rættelighe corrigeret (1505).

Danish royal crest with three lions, symbolising the three main Danish
provinces, including Scania. Britta Olrik Frederiksen, who has compared
the text with the manuscript which the edition possibly or probably was
based on, states that the purpose of the edition was ‘det rent praktiske’
(‘the entirely practical’), that is, to spread the current lawtext. Ghemen
chose a young manuscript, apparently without much critical judgement.
In principle he followed its text as far as he understood it – the devia-
tions are mainly orthographical (Frederiksen 2001, 118).
Ghemen’s edition thus could be classified as a pre-critical edition, in
which the main ambition was not to present a better or more authentic
text than the existing texts, but simply to further the spreading of the
work. The four editions I will take a closer look at, by contrast, were not
so motivated. The first of them appeared in 1676, commissioned as a de
luxe edition by Johan Hadorph, the Swedish secretary in the Swedish
College of Antiquities (Antikvitetskollegium). Thereafter it was not until
1853 that the Dane P.G. Thorsen published an edition of the Scania Law
in his edition of the Danish laws. In 1859, this was followed by Carl
Johan Schlyter’s edition of Sweriges Gamla Lagar (‘Sweden’s Ancient Law
Texts’), where the Scania Law occupied volume 9. A new scholarly edi-
tion appeared in 1933 in the first volume of Danmarks Gamle Lands-
kabslove (‘Denmark’s Ancient Province Laws’).
From the time that Sweden won Scania in 1658, in other words,
Sweden and Denmark have fought a long drawn out tug-o’-war over the
right to the Scania Law, practically as if it were that province’s deed of
ownership. In fact, when the territorial wars over Scania ended, the sym-
bolic war over the right to Scania’s history was only just beginning.
Hadorph’s edition of 1676 was a prop to the Kingdom of Sweden’s
ambition to annect and ‘swedify’ the new-won province. His preface
opens quite frankly: ‘Skåne hafwer af äldste tijderne warit en Ledamot af
Götharijket/ hwilket sina Råmärke hafwer mitt uthi Öresund’ (‘Scania
has since the earliest times been part of the realm of the Goths, whose
borderline goes through the middle of the Öresund’). In this way the
edition was put in the service of a tendentious writing of Swedish his-
When Hadorph’s edition came out, the Scania Law was actually still
the current law in Scania – Swedish law was introduced only five years
later. There was of course a strong symbolism in the fact that the Law’s
text was published in Stockholm, and Hadorph’s edition is also a declara-
96 Paula Henrikson

tion of power, meant to overpower. The bibliographical codes are corres-

pondingly forceful and unambiguous. The book is a de luxe edition in
elegant folio. The Swedish royal crest dominates the title leaf, filling half
the page – which is an emblematic response to the Danish crest in
Ghemen’s edition. And if anyone in spite of this should feel uncertain
where the edition belongs, the imprint calls out ‘STOCKHOLM’ in large
capitals. The title reads: Then Gambla Skåne Lagh/ Som i forna Tijder hafwer
brukat warit/ Och nu Aff ett Gammalt Pergamentz med flijt uthskrifwin/
Medh Nyare Codicibus jempnförd och förbättrat/ som på nästfölliande Blad finnes
antecknat/ Sampt Medh Hans Kongl. May:s Bekostnat uplagd.4
In the wording of the title, two things at least are noticeable. First, it
advertises at once who funded the major project: His Royal Majesty.
Second, the title page expresses unambiguously the ambitious anti-
quarianism which motivates the edition. Ghemen’s edition was a service
edition, meant to increase knowledge about current law. When
Hadorph’s edition appeared, Swedish law, it is true, had not yet been
introduced in the new province – but he clearly indicated with his edition
that the Scania Law was antiquated as a juridical text. ‘The old Scania
Law’ as it applied ‘in ancient times’ had now been carefully fair-copied
‘from an old parchment’. Age thus became an argument in its own right,
and the antiquarian interest was instrumentalised for appropriating the
text by re-functionalising it. What the title-page tells its readers is that the
Scania Law has no currency in legal use. It is a piece of the cultural heri-
tage, rather, of which the Kingdom of Sweden has gained rightful pos-
The newly founded College of Antiquities, within which Hadorph
was active, was Sweden’s central institution for this politically driven
antiquarian interest, and it was also the reason why antiquities of diverse
kinds and in large numbers came to light and were preserved for poster-
ity (cf. Schück 1932, and Lindroth 1975, 235–348). Hadorph’s antiquar-
ian ambition is apparent not least in that he chose as base text the oldest
known manuscript, which he had obtained from the county governor in
Kristianstad through the chancellor Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie. It
went of course on a symbolic journey from the earlier Danish province

‘The old Scania Law, which was applied in ancient times, and now is fair-copied
scrupulously from an old parchment, compared with newer codices and thus im-
proved, as is noted on the next page, and is published at the expense of His Royal

to the capital of Sweden, as the big power it then was, and Hadorph
emphasised with satisfaction that the like of this manuscript was hardly
to be found in Denmark. About its language he says that it is ‘renare och
åldrigare än i the senare Manuscriptis, ja aldeles lijkt med thet gambla
Göthiske Språket/ som i Götharijkes Laghböckerne finnes’ (‘purer and
older than in the later manuscripts, indeed altogether like the old Gothic
language, as it can be found in the laws of the Goths’) – in the Danish
edition from 1505, however, the language is ‘mera fördanskat’ (‘more
“danified”’; Hadorph 1676, n.p.).
The antiquarian desire to reproduce an older rather than a younger
manuscript corresponds fully to Hadorph’s patriotic ambition: the lan-
guage of the older Danish manuscript was of course closer to the Swed-
ish language than a younger manuscript could be. Frederiksen has
pointed out, though, that the fidelity to the text is not bigger in
Hadorph’s edition than in Ghemen’s (Frederiksen 2001, 121). Among
the alterations Frederiksen registers is the repeated shift of æ as final
vowel to a, which might be interpreted as an attempt to adjust the lan-
guage in a Swedish direction. Hadorph’s message is that the Scania Law
is Swedish, its language is Swedish, and its rightful overlord is the Swed-
ish King.
The patriotic resonances in Hadorph’s big-power-oriented edition
were of course typical of their day. It is symptomatic, nonetheless, that
when the Scania Law was edited again, this time by the Dane P.G.
Thorsen in 1853, the introduction opened with an echo in the same
spirit: ‘Skånes gamle Provindslov, hvis Sprog er den ældste Dansk,
står ved sit Indhold i et meget nært Forhold, på forskjellig Måde, såvel til
den gamle sællandske Lov som til Valdemar den andens jydske Lov’.5 By
assigning the language of the law to ‘the oldest Danish’ and pointing out
the Danish legal tradition as the relevant context, Thorsen not only re-
plies to Hadorph’s attempt to ‘swedify’ the law. He also places the law in
the history of linguistics, in accordance with the revolutionary achieve-
ments of the early nineteenth century in that field. In his Forsøg til en
videnskabelig dansk Retskrivningslære med Hensyn til Stamsproget og Nabosproget
(‘An attempt at a scientific theory of Danish spelling, with regard to the
root language and the neighbouring language’, 1826), Rasmus Rask had

Thorsen 1853, 1: ‘Scania’s old province law, whose language is the oldest Danish,
is in its content closely related, in many ways, both to the old Själland law and to the
Jylland law of Valdemar the Second’.
98 Paula Henrikson

singled out the language of the Scania Law as precisely ‘den ældste Dansk’
(‘the oldest Danish’, 107), and Thorsen could thus on scientific grounds
dismiss Hadorph’s politically rather than scientifically motivated view on
the language of the Scania Law.6
Thorsen underscores at the same time that the moment has come for
the Danes, too, to make a bid on behalf of this ‘ærværdige og vigtige
fædrelandske Monument’ (‘glorius and important national monument’).
Fortunately, he continues, a manuscript happens to exist which is older
than the one Hadorph edited. Even though Hadorph’s manuscript is
very old, he writes, ‘står den dog i Alder tilbage for det berömte Rune-
håndskrift af Loven’.7 He dates this runic manuscript, Codex Runicus,
which was brought to Copenhagen by Arne Magnusson, to the second
half of the 13th century and uses it as the base text for his edition.
Thus for Thorsen, too, antiquity is the weightiest argument: the Co-
penhagen manuscript shall by its very age silence the self-important
Stockholmers. The fact that it was written in runes gave an extra aura to
Thorsen’s native ward, and it was not without a certain mythification that
he enlarged upon the function, significance and ‘ædle og naturlige Stil’
(‘noble and natural style’) in the Codex Runicus (ibid., 8). Unhappily
enough, however, the runic manuscript had a major lacuna which in one
way or another had to be filled in. Thorsen states that Hadorph’s manu-
script would have been the most desirable source of reference, yet, ‘da
den er svensk Ejendom, vilde jeg slet ikke anholde om den’ (‘since it is in
Swedish possession, I did not even wish to seek permission to use it’. He
explains this decision by declaring that he does not wish to anticipate the
contemporary effort by Schlyter to edit the law in his edition of Sweriges
Gamla Lagar (ibid., 13). Therefore, Thorsen filled the gap instead from a
much younger Copenhagen manuscript – a compromise that in the first
place, no doubt, had practical reasons, but which at the same time gives
evidence of the lack of cooperation between the neighbouring countries
in the editorial enterprise.
The rivalry was loaded as to which manuscript was the oldest, the so-
called B76 in Stockholm or Codex Runicus in Copenhagen, and the
competing claims were to remain controversial in the editions of the
Scania Law. The two existing Swedish editions are based on B76 in

Many thanks to Britta Olrik Frederiksen, who called my attention to this connec-
tion between Thorsen and Rask.
Thorsen 1853, 3: ‘it must yield as to age to the law’s old runic manuscript’.

Stockholm. The two Danish ones both accept Codex Runicus in Copen-
hagen as the oldest and best manuscript. In each individual case careful
scholarly considerations no doubt lie behind the editorial decisions, yet
from a bird’s-eye perspective this division is inevitably seen to spring
from a sense of editorial scholarship whose task is assumed to be an
affirmation of the primary right of access of one’s own nation to the
Scania Law.
Carl Johan Schlyter’s edition of the Scania Law followed in 1859, only
six years after Thorsen’s, but it constituted a qualitative leap in terms
both of theory and of methodology.8 While the frame of reference legiti-
mising Thorsen’s edition was still a late romantic nostalgia for the old
Nordic heritage, Schlyter’s edition by contrast is an early representative
of the kind of historicism that was to gain ground in the latter half of the
19th century. For Schlyter, the aura surrounding the runic hand has
simply become a matter of ridicule. His legitimising strategy lies instead
in an astonishingly modern sense of scholarship. Schlyter is not only the
originator of the first stemma known in the history of textual scholarship
(presented in the edition of 1827 of the Västgöta Law); he is also aware
of the need for meticulously compiled inventories of all extant manu-
scripts. In his introductions, moreover, his arguments are based on vari-
ants, communal error, watermarks and press variants. These introduc-
tions, not least for the reason that they explicitly reflect upon his own
editorial principles, are prone to run to the length of some 200 pages.
Schlyter’s consistency of method was innovative, but it should be
noted that his scholarly attitude did by no means get in the way of an
outspoken patriotism. The fact that Scania belonged to Denmark when
the law was instituted ‘har varit mig bekant allt sedan min barndom’ (‘is
something I have known ever since my childhood’), Schlyter asserts. Yet
he offers three reasons for nonetheless perceiving the Scania Law at
home among Sweden’s province laws. In the first place, the provinces in
which it was valid law have ever and again been under Swedish rule and
therefore share the same legal tradition as the Swedish laws, he declares;
secondly, he claims that the law’s diction and the diction of the Swedish
laws all must be considered dialects of the same language, and thirdly –

On this, see Holm 1972, 48–80, esp. 60: ‘I have no hesitation in maintaining that
already in 1827 Schlyter had complete theoretical and practical command of the
methods now accepted in modern stemma construction, including the rule of commu-
nal and distinctive error.’
100 Paula Henrikson

and above all – Scania does now belong to Sweden (Schlyter 1859,
CLXII–CLXIII). Schlyter’s argument that the three provinces in question,
Scania, Blekinge and Halland, ‘af naturen äro sammanbundna med
Sverige’ (‘by nature are bound up with Sweden’) is also recurrent in
Swedish arguing, not least in the contradictory Swedish attempts to com-
bine Scandinavism and patriotism in the 1890’s (cf. Zander 1999,
12–30). This reference to ‘natural borders’ appealed to the notion of
societies and nations as objectively given by nature and God, rather than
as being human constructions.
Age and origin carry positive connotations for those who value
manuscripts. The same notions are implicit, too, when the Swedish edi-
tors argue for Sweden’s right to the Scania Law. Schlyter speaks of the
Danish ‘språkförbistring’ (‘corruptions of the language’) and the lack of
‘renare språk’ (‘purer language’) in old Danish manuscripts – the early
dissolution of the conjugational system becomes an index for the degen-
erative departure of Danish from the common Nordic origins, better
preserved in Swedish. In fact, they have been particularly well preserved
in Schlyter’s edition of the Scania Law – for his establishment of the text
is archaising in such a way that he repeatedly corrects the manuscript text
where it does not show the right, that is: the ancient, conjugational forms
(Brøndum-Nielsen 1917, 127). It is true that, with his famous accuracy,
he records his every emendation, but the result is nonetheless an estab-
lished, privileged, text, leaning more towards Old Swedish than the
manuscript warrants. By way of this archaising, Schlyter proves his con-
tention that Scania is by rights a Swedish province. Schlyter’s edition thus
manifests the thesis Allen J. Franzen has argued for in his monograph
Desire for Origins (1990):
The search for origins is never disinterested; those wishing to trace an idea
or tradition to its historical, linguistic, and textual beginnings have always
done so with a thesis in mind, and the origin they have found has often
been an origin they have produced.9

Frantzen 1990, xii. Further: ‘My attempt to define history and textual criticism
within the context of reception and reproduction is designed to emphasize the subjec-
tivity inherent in both scholarly practices. The technical nature of historiography and
textual criticism has sometimes caused both to be understood as objective. Yet it is
obvious that, just as history requires a writer to reconstruct the story being told,
textual criticism requires a scholar to reconstruct the text to be read – not just to
“edit” it, but to do so within a specific, reconstructive, and hence interpretive, frame-
work. To call either practice ‘objective’ is to forget its hermeneutic function.’

Behind linguistic considerations are always political interests – this is

Franzen’s proposition.10 And through the archaising of his edition
Schlyter buttresses his thesis that Scania by rights is Swedish. The Swed-
ish language is pure, strong and ancient; the Danish is degenerative and
corrupted. This rhetoric can of course be traced to the linguistic specula-
tions of the Nordic renaissance, which I cannot discuss further here. But
it should be noted that even though such fantasies of an old, adamitic
Ur-language nowadays sound bizarre, originality is yet still a catchword
in scholarly editing. Textual scholarship has often defined as its goal a
reaching back behind a latter-day, ‘corrupted’ layer, and towards a more
or less mythic origin – to be sought in the beginning of times or in the
intention of the author. This view also characterises the stemmatic
method (cf. Aarsleff 1985, 93–113).
Generously, though, Schlyter still concedes that one could hardly
object if the Danes should also choose to incorporate the Scania Law
among the old laws of their country (Schlyter 1859, CLXIII). And this is
of course precisely what they did, though after Thorsen it was not until
1933 that the Scania Law was included in a Danish collection of law
texts. Modern paradigms of textual scholarship had meanwhile come into
full force, and the editors naturally enough saw no reason for discussing
the inclusion of this law in their collection. Yet traces of the Danish-
Swedish conflict are still discernible. The controversy over the manu-
scripts continued – the editors now state that B76 dates from the four-
teenth century, while the Codex Runicus might be from the late thir-
teenth century and therefore should be considered as the oldest of the
Scania Law manuscripts. The lacunae were now filled in mainly from
B76. Besides the edition of Codex Runicus, the editors also provide
editions of two younger manuscripts of the same law, demonstrating the
variations of the law in its practical use – one of them to be found in
Stockholm. One should note the diversity they thus invite into the edi-
In 1933, the historical conflict between Denmark and Sweden was no
longer either threatening, or even of interest. At the same time, a new
scholarly paradigm held sway that did not permit exposing driving forces

Frantzen 1990, xiii: ‘My thesis – and thus my own reason for seeking the origin
of Anglo-Saxon studies – is that engagement with political controversy has always
been a distinctive and indeed an essential motive for studying language origins and
therefore for studying Anglo-Saxon.’
102 Paula Henrikson

of a pre-scholarly nature. For the most part, all mention of the editors’
motivations had thus meanwhile to be relegated to prefaces and other
forms of more personally reflective paratexts. But even so, one should
note the logotype on the flyleaf: it displays yet again the three lions from
the Danish crest that once adorned Ghemen’s edition.
Though this is only a summary survey of the Scania Law’s editorial
history, it still permits drawing a few conclusions. On every level – from
the material one concerned with the book’s physical appearance, via
prefaces and introductions, to the choice of base text, editorial emenda-
tion and the establishment of the edited texts, we may discern just how
the editions have been shaped in relation to the symbolically charged law
text. The editions become building blocks towards the building of na-
tions – and seen from an historical perspective, it is precisely such a
function that textual editing has generally assumed as one of its central
tasks. It was by no means fortuitous, for example, that the romantic ideas
about the emergence of the nations coincided with the most significant
phase of expansion of the modern philologies – but that is another story.
I wish to conclude with a closer look at the notions my paper has
been meant to illustrate: namely, the editor’s preconceptions and preju-
dices. Hans-Georg Gadamer’s attempts to re-instate these notions takes
a stand against rationalism’s belief in rationality. The belief in ‘rational-
ity’s absolute self-construction’ according to Gadamer shuts its eyes to
the insight that whoever wishes to comprehend a text always already has
something in common with it.
‘Belonging to a tradition’ is in Gadamer’s view therefore a ‘condition
of hermeneutics’; indeed, such preconception is for him in fact ‘the most
basic of all hermeneutic preconditions’. This pre-existing bond with a
common tradition in its turn leads the interpreter to pre-conceive the
text’s meaning, or the text’s ‘perfection’, Vollkommenheit. Gadamer writes:
So machen wir denn diese Voraussetzung der Vollkommenheit immer,
wenn wir einen Text lesen, und erst wenn diese Voraussetzung sich als
unzureichend erweist, d. h. der Text nicht verständlich wird, zweifeln wir an
der Überlieferung und suchen zu erraten, wie sie zu heilen ist. Die Regeln,
die wir bei solchen textkritischen Überlegungen befolgen, können hier
beiseite bleiben. Worauf es ankommt, ist auch hier, daß ihre rechte An-
wendung nicht von dem inhaltlichen Verständnis ablösbar ist.11

Gadamer 1990, 296, 299; for the English translation, Gadamer 1989, 291, 294:
‘So when we read a text we always assume its completeness, and only when this as-

This is one of the few instances where Gadamer explicitly talks about the
activity of textual criticism; and it is hardly surprising that he relates it to
an understanding of content. But it is not least in terms of the task of
textual criticism that Gadamer’s reasoning is dubious, and this is not just
because he leaves aside its ‘rules’. Rather, our discussion of the Scania
Law prompts two pressing questions: in the first place, is Gadamer’s
view not in fact seriously reductive, narrowing textual criticism, as it
does, to a mere instrument of power to restore the text in harmony with
our expectations? And secondly, how can one within Gadamer’s system
ever break with a reductive and oppressive tradition?
What makes the Scania Law an instructive example of the role that
preconception plays in textual editing is the fact that it has been shown
to belong within not just one, but two traditions. Since both Swedes and
Danes claim the text, both traditions become mutually revelatory: the
one brings out the blind spots in the other. The kind of preconception
that in other editions is an implicit and opaque precondition for a text’s
adoption, thereby becomes explicit and transparent. This is why I would
also suggest that the mechanisms that the Scania Law reveals are not
exceptions, but the rule. The Scania Law makes processes visible which
otherwise usually remain invisible.
The circumstance that the Scania Law belongs to two traditions
shows how unstable the categories are that control understanding. When
Gadamer names ‘the text’s perfection’ as the point of origin of textual
criticism, he allows for but a single tradition enveloping us all that makes
understanding possible and legitimises text-critical decisions. It would
seem, in fact, as if ultimately but the abstract notion of tradition remained
as the only active principle in his hermeneutics – yet he does not give the
interpreter, in this case the textual critic, a chance of breaking with his or
her tradition. On the contrary, the intrusion of textual criticism becomes
the ultimate tool to prevent tradition from losing its grip on the text. This
is textual criticism as the exercise of power – and from this perspective,
a pluralism of traditions were not only a challenge, but above all a salva-

sumption proves mistaken – i.e., the text is not intelligible – do we begin to suspect
the text and try to discover how it can be remedied. The rules of such textual criticism
can be left aside, for the important thing to note is that applying them properly de-
pends on understanding the content.’
104 Paula Henrikson

Is it possible to imagine a mode of editorial scholarship that does not

depend on a notion of tradition like Gadamer’s? Gunter Martens talks
about the text’s ‘konstitutive Fremdheit’ (‘constitutive estrangement’) in
his attempt to describe its unconditional autonomy: it is not the editor’s
task to set right the text according to our expectations, but instead to
protect it from hasty intervention.12 Much earlier, the classical scholar
Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff spoke of the ideal scholar’s state of
consciousness as one of self-surrender. The scholar should dedicate her
own individuality unreservedly to the alien (Wilamowitz-Moellendorff
1907, 256ff.). In practice, neither Martens nor Wilamowitz are strangers
to text-critical intervention, but their common stance in theory may be
thus paraphrased: where it runs against our notions, it is not the text that
we must set right – it is ourselves.
Wilamowitz’ and Martens’ attitudes are, I think, worth to be given
some thought in terms of a reflection on scholarly ethics – and perhaps it
is even true to say that the question of the editor’s stance and attitudes
belongs in the field of ethics, rather than in that of a theory of knowl-
edge. Yet as a frame within which to model the cultural significance of
editorial scholarship, their views are insufficient. It would be naive to
believe that not we too, in our turn, also edited texts in the service of
certain ends. The truth is, on the contrary, that an historical text remains
relevant only in the measure that it answers to present needs. The only
texts towards which we can maintain a totally disinterested attitude – or
on which we give up all demands – are those to which we are wholly
An historical understanding of editorial scholarship must take its
departure from the reception history of the works in their written trans-
mission. Our access to history must pass through these texts, the way
they have been transmitted by human beings who, in their turn, had an
ideological or aesthetic agenda. My overview therefore of the editorial
history of the Scania Law has above all been a tale of its reception his-
tory. In the words of Hans Robert Jauß:
Das literarische Werk ist kein für sich bestehendes Objekt, das jedem
Betrachter zu jeder Zeit den gleichen Anblick darbietet. Es ist kein Monu-

Martens 1991, 19: ‘Die historisch-kritische Ausgabe hätte danach gerade ihre
eigentliche Aufgabe darin, gegen Anpassung und vorschnellen Abbau des für uns
abweichend Erscheinenden den geheimen Widersinn des Kunstwerks, seine konsti-
tutive Fremdheit freizulegen.’

ment, das monologisch sein zeitloses Wesen offenbart. Es ist vielmehr wie
eine Partitur auf die immer erneuerte Resonanz der Lektüre angelegt, die
den Text aus der Materie der Worte erlöst und ihn zu aktuellem Dasein
bringt (...)13
To ‘free the text from the substance of the words’ is for Jauß a metaphor
for the power of reading to give the works of literature a renewed pres-
ence. But Jauß can be much more radically conceived. To speak of the
shifting faces of the literary work is not to speak in metaphor, but of a
physical reality, and the texts’ ‘substance’ is not invariant, just as little as
is the literary work itself. Scholarly editing is a material expression of the
historical transformations of literature.
The editor of a text does not arrest this transformation. The editor
does not – as he or she sometimes believes – remove textual variation or
instability. On the contrary, editions engender added variation, as they
give a new face to the edited text. This is the law of entropy, applied to
editorial scholarship: an editor never creates greater order, but only con-
tributes to the accretive disorder. Or, expressed more optimistically: text-
critical knowledge is accumulative, not definitive.14

Aarsleff, Hans. 1985. Scholarship and Ideology. Joseph Bédier’s Critique of
Romantic Medievalism. In Historical Studies and Literary Criticism, ed. Jerome
J. McGann, 93–113. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Brøndum-Nielsen, Johs. 1917. Danske lovhåndskrifter og dansk lovsprog i den
ældre middelalder. Arkiv för nordisk filologi 34: 105–37.
Frantzen, Allen J., 1990. Desire for Origins. New Language, Old English, and Teaching
the Tradition. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Frederiksen, Britta Olrik. 2001. Om udgivelse af gammeldanske håndskrifter i
500 år – en skitse. Collegium Medievale 14: 115–40.

Jauß 1970, 171ff.: ‘A literary work is not an object which stands by itself and
which offers the same face to each reader in each period. It is not a monument which
reveals its timeless essence in a monologue. It is much more like an orchestration
which strikes ever new chords among its readers and which frees the text from the
substance of the words and makes it meaningful for the time’ (Jauß 1970-71: 10).
This article was prepared during a stay as a guest scholar at the Institut for
Nordiske Studier og Sprogvidenskab at the University of Copenhagen, funded by
Stiftelsen för internationalisering av högre utbildning och forskning i Sverige (STINT). I wish to
thank STINT, as well as my contact at the institute, Johnny Kondrup. Finally, I also
wish to thank Hans Walter Gabler, for valuable help with the English language.
106 Paula Henrikson

Gadamer, Hans-Georg. 1989. Truth and Method. 2nd ed.., trl. Joel Weinsheimer
& Donald G. Marshall; London: Sheed and Ward.
Gadamer, Hans-Georg. 1990. Wahrheit und Methode. Grundzüge einer philosophischen
Hermeneutik (1960). Tübingen: Mohr.
Greetham, D. C. 1993. Editorial and Critical Theory. From Modernism to
Postmodernism. In Palimpsest. Editorial Theory in the Humanities, ed. George
Bornstein & Ralph G. Williams, 9–28. Ann Arbor:: University of Michigan
Hadorph, Johan, ed. 1676. Then Gambla Skåne Lagh/ Som i forna Tijder hafwer
brukat warit/ Och nu Aff ett Gammalt Pergamentz med flijt uthskrifwin/
Medh Nyare Codicibus jempnförd och förbättrat/ som på nästfölliande Blad finnes
antecknat/ Sampt Medh Hans Kongl. May:s Bekostnat uplagd. Stockholm.
Holm, Gösta. 1972. Carl Johan Schlyter and Textual Scholarship. Saga och Sed.
Kungl. Gustav Adolf Akademiens Årsbok, 48–80.
Hær begynnes skonskæ logh paa ræth danskæ, och ær skifft i xvij bøgher oc hwer bogh
haffuer sith register. ok ær wæl offuer seeth och rættelighe corrigeret. 1505.
Jauß, Hans Robert. 1970. Literaturgeschichte als Provokation der Literatur-
wissenschaft. In Literaturgeschichte als Provokation, 144–207. Frankfurt/M:
Jauß, Hans Robert. 1970–71. Literary History as a Challenge to Literary The-
ory. New Literary History 2: 7–37.
Lindroth, Sten. 1975. Svensk lärdomshistoria, vol. 2 (Stormaktstiden). Stockholm:
Martens, Gunter. 1991. ‘Historisch’, ‘kritisch’ und die Rolle des Herausgebers
bei der Textkonstitution. Editio. Iinternationales Jahrbuch für Editionswissenschaft
5: 12–27.
McGann, Jerome J. 1985. The Monks and the Giants. Textual and Bibliographi-
cal Studies and the Interpretation of Literary Works. In Textual Criticism and
Literary Interpretation, ed. Jerome J. McGann, 180–199. Chicago: University
of Chicago Press.
Montrose, Louis A. 1989. Professing the Renaissance. The Poetics and Politics
of Culture. In The New Historicism, ed. H. Aram Veeser, 15–36. London:
Rask, Rasmus, 1826. Forsøg til en videnskabelig dansk Retskrivningslære med Hensyn til
Stamsproget og Nabosproget. København.
Schlyter, Carl Johan (ed.). 1859 Corpus iuris sueo-gotorum antiqui. Samling af Sweriges
gamla lagar, på kongl. maj:ts nådigste befallning utgifven, bd 9 (Skåne-Lagen, med
ärkebiskopens i Lund Andreas Sunessons latinska bearbetning, skånska kyrkrätten
och stadsrätten, samt åtskilliga stadgar för Skåne). Stockholm.
Schück, Henrik. 1932. Minne af Johan Hadorph. Svenska Akademiens Handlingar
ifrån år 1886 43: 71–335.
Shillingsburg, Peter. 1997. Resisting Texts. Authority and Submission in Constructions
of Meaning. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Taylor, Gary. 1994. The Rhetorics of Reaction. In Crisis in Editing. Texts of the
English Renaissance, ed. Randall M. Leod, 19–41. New York: AMS.
Thorsen, P. G. (ed.). 1853. Skånske Lov og Eskils skånske Kirkelov, tilligemed
Andreæ Sunonis lex Scaniæ prouincialis, skånske Arvebog og det tilbageværende af
Knud den 6.s og Valdemar den 2.s Lovgivning vedkommende skånske Lov. Kjøben-
Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Ulrich von. 1907. Einleitung in die griechische Tragödie.
Berlin: Weidmann.
Zander, Ulf. 1999. Hur stort är fäderneslandet? Skånsk historia och dansk-
svenska gränser från sekelslut till sekelslut. Ale. Historisk tidskrift för Skåne,
Halland och Blekinge 3: 12–30.
EUROPEAN STUDIES 26 (2008): 109-128



Mary-Ann Constantine

This chapter explores a formative moment in the history of Welsh
literature and philology: the publication, between 1801 and 1807, of
three volumes of medieval Welsh-language texts known as the
Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales. Now generally discredited as the product
of misguided Romantic-era enthusiasm, the Myvyrian was a respected
and respectable companion for writers and scholars in Wales and
beyond during most of the nineteenth century, and it helped shape a
vision of ‘Welshness’ still recognisable today. It repays closer scrutiny,
both as a work of scholarship and for its contribution to incipient
Welsh nationalism. Moreover, the story of its compilation by three
very different men – a compelling mixture of endeavour, generosity
and deviousness – is as much a part of Welsh literary history as the
publication itself.

One of the formative moments in the history of Welsh literature and

philology was the publication, between 1801 and 1807, of three weighty
volumes of medieval texts known as the Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales.
Although, for reasons which will become clear, it has long since fallen on
hard times, the Myvyrian was a respected and respectable companion for
writers and scholars in Wales and beyond during most of the nineteenth
century, and it helped shape a vision of ‘Welshness’ still recognisable
today. The story of its compilation – a compelling mixture of endeavour,
generosity and deviousness – and of the three men who brought it into
being, is, by now, as much a part of Welsh literary history as the publica-
tion itself.
110 Mary-Ann Constantine

A culture’s literary history is like a river fed by many tributaries. From

where we stand we feel we know the landscape, in all its twists and turns,
well enough – but that sense of what has shaped the river, of the influ-
ences and confluences that have most determined its course, depends
dramatically on the viewer’s own position in space and in time. So it may
be salutary to start with the story of the late eighteenth-century Welsh
literary revival as seen from Brittany some half a century after it got
going. It is a romantic tale of the poor shepherd boy Owen Jones, born
in 1741 in the ‘valley of Myfyr’ (the parish of Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr,
from which he would later take his bardic name ‘Owain Myfyr’). When
out on the hills tending his flocks, says our author, he would often turn
his eyes to the splendour of Snowdon, that Celtic Parnassus, which,
surely, he must often have climbed to sleep the sleep of poetic inspira-
tion. Once grown up, and thoroughly versed in the poetic and musical
arts of his native Wales (an innate passion for which is the mark of all
true Welshmen), he conceived the idea of bringing these national trea-
sures, long hidden in manuscripts, out of their ancient strongholds in
order to make them known to the wider world:
Par malheur, ces jardins des Héspérides celtiques, si gracieusement ouverts
aujourd’hui à quiconque sait toucher aux fruits sans les gâter, avaient alors
des gardiens non moins farouches que les dragons de la fable: (...) quelle
chance de succès pouvait donc avoir un pauvre paysan? Comprenant que la
fortune seule lui fournirait le rameau d’or qui conjure les dragons, il dit
adieu à son pays par amour pour ce pays même: il se rendit à Londres (...), il
entra comme employé dans le magasin d’un marchand de fourrures de
Tames’s street, et après être devenu homme de peine commis, de commis
associé, et enfin chef de l’établissement, à la mort du propriétaire, après
avoir, durant quarante ans, prélevé, jour par jour, shelling par shelling, sur
ses économies, la somme nécessaire pour faire copier, puis imprimer les
textes des anciens poèmes bretons; encouragé par quelques amis exilés avec
lui du sol de la patrie, avec lui pleurant bien souvent au souvenir du pays
natal, soutenu même et provoqué par les injustes préventions, les doutes
injurieux, et les grossières railleries des étrangers contre les bardes, il les
publia, en 1801, sous le titre d’Archéologie galloise de Myvyr ou Myvyrian
Archaiology of Wales 1

La Villemarqué 1850, ii-iii: ‘But alas, the gardens of these Celtic Hesperides, now
so graciously open to those who know how to touch their fruits without spoiling them,
were at the time guarded as fiercely as if by fabled dragons: (...) what hope of entry,
then, for a poor peasant? Realizing that money alone would provide him with the
dragon-vanquishing golden bough, his very love for his country forced him to bid that
country farewell, and he made his way to London, where he found employment in a

This fable is recounted by the Breton writer Théodore Hersart de La

Villemarqué in the introduction to his own selection of early Welsh
poetry. Like much of what he wrote, it is not exactly fiction, but nor does
it tell the whole story: his version of events collapses a complex prehis-
tory of false starts and collaborations involving the London Welsh soci-
eties2 and the joint efforts of the three editors of The Myvyrian Archaiology,
into the affecting tale of a single hero-figure. Owain Myfyr becomes not
only the Welsh revival’s prime economic mover, as he undoubtedly was,
but also its superlative scholar, editor and visionary. The virtual invisibil-
ity of the other two editors, William Owen Pughe and Edward Williams,
is significant.
Three-quarters of a century on, back on the Welsh side of the river-
bank, the view is rather less serene. Owain Myfyr, bulky man though he
was, has now been eclipsed by the small, restless figure of Edward Wil-
liams, better known by his bardic name Iolo Morganwg (‘Ned of
Glamorgan’). A careful study of a dozen poems attributed to the four-
teenth century poet Dafydd ap Gwilym has just shown, irrefutably, that
they must be Iolo’s own work: they are forgeries, pastiches, and the
implications for the foundations of Welsh scholarship are serious. In a
somewhat shrill introduction to G. J. Williams’s excellent detective work,
the academic John Morris-Jones denounces Iolo Morganwg (by then long
established as a kind of Welsh National Treasure) as a ‘hateful man full
of hate’, a poisoner of well-springs: it will be, he says, ‘an age or two yet
before our history and literature are clean of the traces of his dirty fin-
gers’.3 The river of Welsh literary history has been fed by contaminated

fur merchant’s shop in Thames Street. Here he worked his way up from apprentice to
become, at the death of the proprietor, head of the firm, and for forty long years he
saved day by day, shilling by shilling, the necessary amount to have copied and then
printed the texts of the ancient British poems; encouraged in this enterprise by a few
friends, who were, like himself, exiled from their native soil, and like himself were
often moved to tears at the thought of their homeland, hardened and provoked by the
unfair prohibitions, the insulting doubts, and the vulgar jests which foreigners directed
against the bards, he published these texts, in 1801, under the title of the Welsh
Archaiology of Myfyr, or the Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales.’
The Honourable Society of the Cymmrodorion (lit. ‘earliest inhabitants’) was
founded in London in 1751 by Richard and Lewis Morris with an essentially antiquar-
ian remit; the Gwyneddigion (lit. ‘men of Gwynedd’), founded in 1770 with Owain
Myfyr as its first President, had a more eclectic membership and a more radical tone.
Williams 1926: xvi: ‘bydd ein llên a’n hanes am oes neu ddwy eto cyn byddant lân
o ôl ei ddwylo halog ef’.
112 Mary-Ann Constantine

underground streams, and all of Iolo’s works are now suspect. They
include, of course, large parts of The Myvyrian Archaiology, over which he
laboured for many years, tracking down and copying out manuscripts,
and sending texts – but how many of them reliable? – to his colleagues
in London. The first decades of the twentieth century saw a fierce rejec-
tion of Welsh Romantic scholarship, a return to sources, to new schol-
arly editions, and the cultivation of that scrupulousness bordering on
mania which becomes one of the hallmarks of modern academic Celtic
studies. The Myvyrian Archaiology, a standard text for nineteenth-century
writers, fell out of favour.
Two centuries on, and standing a good long way back from the
source, the patterns made by the interconnecting streams, complex as
they are, seem rather clearer: it becomes easier to pick out the roles of
the three editors of the compilation and the relative proportions of their
scholarly endeavour, zeal and deception. It is also easier to situate the
nature of their scholarship within a broader cultural context, both British
and European – a broader context which, incidentally, includes La
Villemarqué’s own somewhat dubious role in transferring (or, as he
would have it, repatriating) part of that Brittonic legacy to Brittany.4 The
story of the genesis of The Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales is a useful lens
through which to focus some of these wider concerns, and it really does
not need dragons and golden apples to make it interesting.
Eighteenth-century Wales was witness to a huge surge in published
works, yet in many respects, even by the end of the century, it was still
very much a manuscript culture: most people still copied out or learned
each other’s poems, and the collecting and copying of early manuscripts
was far from an elite antiquarian pursuit (McKenna 2005). Yet as the
traditional ways of sustaining cultural knowledge crumbled there was a
growing sense of a need to rescue the written debris of the past: the old
system of bardic patronage was by now virtually defunct and Welsh
gentry looked increasingly to England to educate their sons. Old Welsh
books and papers had ceased to be valued and many perished. By the
middle of the century efforts had begun to stem the tide of neglect: an
energetic circle of writers and scholars around the Morris brothers of
Anglesey became involved in recovering manuscripts and encouraging

La Villemarqué’s relations with Wales and his use of The Myvyrian Archaiology are
discussed in Constantine 2007, 143-98. For a comprehensive introduction to Iolo’s life
and work see Jenkins 2005.

new authors (cf. Morgan 1981, Herbert & Jones 1988). They began to
assess the holdings of the various estate libraries and other private collec-
tions, they chased priceless medieval manuscripts still being passed casu-
ally around by hand, and they copied them, creating a sizeable collection
which would come to be held in the Welsh Charity School at London.
The Morrises’ protégé, the unlucky, drink-prone cleric Evan Evans
(‘Ieuan Fardd’), was one of the greatest and most dogged collectors of
Welsh manuscripts. He it was who rediscovered the early heroic poem Y
Gododdin, now the immovable cornerstone of any Welsh literature course:
its belated addition to the canon offers a neat parallel to England’s long
wait for its own literary ‘beginnings’ in Beowulf, first published in 1825.
In 1764 Evan Evans published Some Specimens of the Poetry of the Antient
Welsh Bards, a selection of texts in Welsh, with some English translations
and a Latin dissertation on Welsh literature. Specimens was aimed for the
first time at a readership outside Wales, and was conceived, at least
partly, as a kind of sobering response to Macpherson’s Ossian: the tone is
scholarly, defensive.5 Evans’s work was an important turning point, but
it did not go far enough: a generation later there was continuing corro-
sive fall-out from the Ossian controversy, and attacks on all things Celtic
by the ‘Gothic’ apologist John Pinkerton left Wales still driven by the
need to defend both the age and reliability of Welsh tradition. One
senses, in Welsh scholarly circles, an indignation born of insecurity, a
fear of being misunderstood. Establishing a verifiable and venerable
literary history, far earlier than anything the Saxons could boast, would
also be some consolation at Wales’s effective loss of prestige within an
English-speaking ‘Britain’ rapidly consolidating its power-base in Lon-
don – the Ancient Britons, after all, undisputably spoke Welsh. Such
considerations make the publication of the Myvyrian or something like it
seem inevitable: in actual practice, given the characters involved in its
genesis and the difficulties they faced, it is rather miraculous that it ever
happened at all.
By the 1770s Owain Myfyr was doing well in the fur-trade in Lon-
don.6 Iolo Morganwg first made contact with him there in 1773-4, when
he went to find work as a stonecutter. Myfyr, always responsive to fellow

For the Welsh reaction to the Ossian phenomenon see Constantine 2004 and
Constantine 2007, 85-128.
The most thorough account of Owain Myfyr’s life to date is the unpublished PhD
thesis Phillips 2006. Cf also Phillips 2005.
114 Mary-Ann Constantine

Welsh enthusiasts, welcomed him into the Gwyneddigion Society, and,

perhaps more fatefully, showed him the Morris manuscripts at the Welsh
School. The poems of the fourteenth-century Dafydd ap Gwilym made a
profound impression on him: he began writing his own poems in
Dafydd’s style, sending them to Myfyr for criticism and advice. After a
difficult, and homesick, period working at his craft down in Kent, Iolo
returned to Glamorgan. By the mid-1780s he was married and enduring
extreme financial hardship, and for a while he lost (or gave up) contact
with the London Welsh: the generous Owain Myfyr was distressed to
discover later that Iolo’s debts had forced him to spend a year in prison.
Contact was finally re-established in 1788, through Myfyr’s latest ‘discov-
ery’, William Owen (later known as William Owen Pughe)7, a modest
and hard-working clerk from Merioneth, and another keen enthusiast for
all things Welsh. The two men were working towards an edition of
Dafydd ap Gwilym’s poems, and Iolo hinted tantalizingly at pieces he
had copied from Glamorgan manuscripts which were not to be found in
the London collections. The editors asked urgently to see them, and at
the eleventh hour Iolo sent a clutch of poems which were included in an
Appendix to the publication.8 Several of these Appendix poems – espe-
cially those bursting with enthusiastic praise for the county of
Glamorgan and for Dafydd’s great patron Ifor Hael – would become
firm favourites in the following century; most, of course, were Iolo’s
own work. And thus began the somewhat fraught triangular alliance
between Owain Myfyr, William Owen Pughe and Iolo Morganwg, an
alliance which would founder in bitter recriminations in 1806, but which
held together just long enough for a significant part of their ambitious
project of publication to see the light of day.
None of these men came from a privileged background. They do not
fit the typical model of the gentleman collector whose antiquarian pas-
sions were funded by family wealth or a Church living; they were not
educated at Oxford or Cambridge, and did not have the benefit of per-
sonal tutors – Iolo, indeed, barely had the benefit of the village school.
Thus, while it does not seem quite right to romanticize Owain Myfyr in
La Villemarqué’s terms as a ‘poor shepherd boy made good’ (given

William Owen inherited property from a kinsman in 1806 and took the name
‘Pughe’ in recognition of the bequest. For an account of his life (in Welsh) see Carr
1983, also Carr 2005.
Jones and Pughe 1789. Iolo’s forgeries are analysed by G. J. Williams 1926.

Wales’s demography it is inevitable that most of the bright minds of the

period came from some kind of rural or farming background), it is worth
recognizing that the passion for literature, the love of learning and the
erudition of these three men was non-institutional, the product of local-
ized literary traditions maintained, by this period, not by the Anglicized
gentry but by a lively artisan class. Owain Myfyr was well aware that his
native area had produced some of the finest poets of the late middle
ages; Iolo learned his poetic craft from a circle of scholar-poets, all farm-
ers or craftsmen, from the Glamorgan uplands.
Although he received subventions from Myfyr, and later from the
Royal Literary Fund, Iolo never escaped the need to practise his manual
labour, and his family frequently struggled against real poverty. Disparity
in income played its part in the difficulties which arose between the three
collaborators. For most of his life Owain Myfyr was extremely generous
with his wealth: for many years William Owen Pughe and his family
lived rent-free in a house in Pentonville, and he received an allowance of
£100 per annum for his efforts in the cause of Welsh literature – efforts
which were, in terms of sheer industry, phenomenal. Iolo, an extremely
complex character and far from reliable co-worker, found the processes
of literary patronage deeply unsettling. He resented the idea of depend-
ency on Owain Myfyr and, although glad to receive money when it came,
was quick to take offence at perceived slights; a major aspect of their
later contention was an ‘understanding’ (which proved to be anything
but) that Myfyr would continue to subsidise Iolo’s literary activities long
beyond the period of the Myvyrian. Pughe’s role, judging from the letters,
was often one of patient diplomacy between the two men. His 1806
inheritance (which in fact brought him little immediate benefit in terms
of ready cash) left Iolo even more aggrieved at his own bad luck; this,
compounded with Pughe’s increasing devotion to the prophetess Joanna
Southcott and his ‘barbarous’ lexicographical and orthographical innova-
tions, effectively damned him. As Geraint Phillips has suggested, Iolo’s
forgeries, his subtle deceptions, may have been part of a compensatory
power game, a ‘secret’ which gave him – unquestionably the best scholar
and the quickest mind – a hold over the other two.9
Geography was another complicating factor. In 1799, and not entirely
according to plan, Iolo set off on a tour of Wales with the aim of finding

See Phillips in Jenkins 2005, 403-423.
116 Mary-Ann Constantine

and copying material for the ‘Welsh Archaiology’, which was now, after
several false starts, seriously underway.10 Myfyr, in fact, would have
preferred to have had Iolo in London helping William Owen Pughe with
the huge task of editing the reams of material they already possessed, but
Iolo (who had suffered a nervous breakdown in London in 1792) re-
sisted all attempts to lure him back. He did things very much his own
way, travelling on foot all over Wales, sometimes covering thirty or forty
miles a day, and effectively disappearing for weeks on end. Anxious
letters from Pughe and Myfyr, often sending him money, chased him
from county to county; he did not always bother to reply. Nor did the
treasures he discovered on his travels always correspond to their list of
desiderata for the great edition; a box full of historical material which
was urgently needed in London languished for several months in Bristol
while Iolo turned his mind to what he felt was the far more pressing
business of collecting (and, be it said, manufacturing) ancient Welsh
proverbs (Phillips 2006, 417-418).
Politics played its disruptive part as well. After several fruitful ses-
sions copying manuscripts in the great library at Hafod in Ceredigion
there was a marked cooling of relations between Iolo and the landowner
Thomas Johnes, when, as William Owen Pughe put it, ‘some body must
have insinuated something to him respecting your kingophobia’;11 in
Llanrwst Iolo met with aggressive opposition to their ‘little pitiful con-
cern (...) of printing some inconsiderable portions of the works of the
Welsh bards on a very narrow scale’ by a rival group who claimed that
Myfyr and his men would only publish ‘democratical stuff’.12 There was
an element of truth in this. Although the Myvyrian, a sober edition of
texts, claimed no overt political agenda, Iolo’s revolutionary brand of
bardic nationalism had already infiltrated many of the pieces he would
supply to Pughe and Myfyr. His 1794 collection of verse in English,
Poems, Lyric and Pastoral, set out a vision of the ancient British past whose
political and religious principles were directly opposed to the restrictive
rule of Pitt’s government; a couple of years earlier William Owen
Pughe’s equally innocuously-titled The Heroic Elegies and Other Pieces of
Llywarç Hen had carried a lengthy and learned introductory account of the
ceremonies and beliefs of the British bards which again owed almost

Iolo’s travels are tracked in detail by Phillips 2006, 190-211.
William Owen Pughe to Iolo Morganwg, 14 June 1799. Correspondence nr. 504.
Iolo Morganwg to Owen Jones, 22 July 1799. Correspondence nr. 510.

everything to Iolo’s ideas. The ‘democratical stuff’ did, therefore, make

its way into the three volumes, although to varying degrees.
The concept of a comprehensive, chronologically-organized reposi-
tory of literary texts was new to Wales: previous anthologies, like Lewis
Morris’s Tlysau yr Hen Oesoedd (1735), had culled poetic ‘gems’ or
‘blooms’, while Evan Evans’s scholarly Specimens made no claims to
completeness, and was decidedly patchy on the early period. The most
influential collection at the end of the eighteenth century was Rhys
Jones’s Gorchestion Beirdd Cymru of 1773, which covered a brave chrono-
logical span but had only limited access to the manuscripts (cf. McKenna
2006). The publication of The Myvyrian Archaiology is thus an interesting
moment in a culture famed (and often mocked) for its fondness for
lineage, for its backward gaze – ‘if they want a Pewter Spoon or Porrin-
ger in their House’ noted one satirist, ‘yet they will by no means be with-
out a Pedigree’.13 Welsh poets had, for example, long acknowledged
Taliesin as the founding father of their craft, even if the body of poems
attributed to him fluctuated from one century to the next; scholars of the
Renaissance, such as Humphrey Lhwyd, had begun to trace textual gene-
alogies, and develop a sense of historical depth. But the Myvyrian repre-
sents a new departure: a type of scholarly literary history closer in spirit
to that inaugurated in England in the 1770s and 1780s by Thomas
Warton’s History of English Literature. Unlike Warton’s work, however, the
Myvyrian did not (as it turned out) offer a descriptive account of literary
history in Wales. A promised dissertation on Welsh poetry ‘wherein we
shall consider the nature and peculiar character of it, analize the verse of
our different periods, point out in what they differed, the progress of the
improvements’ (MAW 1: xx-xxi) never materialized, and that task was
left to Iolo’s endlessly-drafted (but also ultimately unfinished) magnum
opus, ‘The History of the Bards’.14 Instead, the Myvyrian editors produced
a canon: three volumes of texts ascribed where possible to named au-
thors, and arranged chronologically and generically.
They comprise, in the first volume, poetry ‘from the earliest times to
the beginning of the fourteenth century’ (MAW 1: vi), beginning with the
Gododdin of Aneirin, whose floruit is given as 510-560; the second vol-

‘E.B.’ 1710, 3 (this work is sometimes attributed to Ned Ward). For an assess-
ment of the Myvyrian as a turning point in Welsh scholarship see Williams 1966.
For two draft versions of this work see Charnell-White 2007, 172-181 and 181-
118 Mary-Ann Constantine

ume contained prose works, histories, law texts and saints’ lives. Transla-
tions were not included, but each volume bears an index giving names
and dates of the known authors, and an indication of the manuscript
provenance of variant versions. The editorial principle, set out in an
English introduction to the whole work, was ‘to give these ancient manu-
scripts with the most scrupulous fidelity, as we find them’ (MAW 1: xix)
The first two volumes appeared in 1801; there was then a significant
delay before the third, and most controversial, volume appeared in 1807
– a year after the editorial triumvirate had effectively collapsed. A fourth
proposed volume, to have contained the texts of the prose romances and
native tales, never saw the light of day.
The contents of the third volume are, for present purposes, the most
interesting. Advertised as a ‘collection of aphorisms, proverbs, ethical
triads, legislative triads, laws, and music’, it presents a rich mixture of
what might be called foundational texts – material pertaining to the early
stages of a national self-definition, both legal (the official structuring of
society) and characteristic (defining the innate character of the people).
They perfectly express Joep Leerssen’s notion of ‘a single primitive eth-
nic self-invention and self-articulation’ deriving ultimately from Vico,
and have many European parallels: one might compare the manuscript
‘discovered’ in Zelená Hora in 1819, which ‘cast much light on the pri-
mal practices of Czech justice, political counsel and communal organiza-
tion’.15 The nature of the contents of the third volume is announced in
the title-page quotation:
Tri dyben addysg a chôv: gwybyddu, diwallu, a dyddanu
The three objects of instruction and record:
to convey knowledge, to supply defects, and to give pleasure
Of the three, that middle verb gives most pause for thought: the typically
eighteenth-century ‘supply defects’, meaning to correct, is given in Welsh
as diwallu – literally, to remove or erase error. As Gwyneth Lewis has
shown, the concept of revision was central to Iolo’s perception of his
bardic role, expressing itself on both a spiritual and an editorial level as a
licence to improve.16 Little wonder, then, that this volume of the Myvyrian
has been both the most influential, and the most reviled.

See Leerssen’s introduction to this volume; also Evans 2005, 58.
Lewis 1991, 232.

The most widely-used texts in the third volume were undoubtedly the
Triads (‘Trioedd’ in Welsh), remnants of a mnemonic system used by
Welsh bards and other professionals to classify historical, poetic and
other instructive material. Many are genuine (or at least pre-Iolo) texts,
sequences of elliptical, three-line verses, often tantalizing in their refer-
ences to names and narratives partially or completely forgotten:
Three Exalted Prisoners of the Island of Britain:
Llír Half-Speech, who was imprisoned by Euroswydd,
and the second, Mabon son of Modron,
and third, Gwair son of Gweiriodd.17
For many antiquarians, the triads were a form crying out for interpreta-
tion – for expansion and clarification. It was a form Iolo made his own,
and long before work began on The Myvyrian Archaiology he had expanded
or coined dozens of sequences to cover all eventualities: religion, philos-
ophy, history, law and the early stages of Welsh civilization. (As he
would remark disingenuously to the Ossianophile Robert Macfarlan in
1804: ‘to forge with any hopes of success in the Erse it would not do to
fabricate an Ossian, or any thing else alone, you must forge in all the
unavoidably concomitant branches of literary knowlege, at least in a great
many of them’).18 The triads provided a platform for his ‘culture heroes’,
characters pulled from the meagre sources into whom he breathed new
life: Hu Gadarn, the ploughman-king who first taught the Welsh their
system of Vocal Song; the wise ruler Prydain fab Aedd; the bards
Plennydd, Alawn and Gwron, all of them founding fathers of a culture
which could be traced back to the Biblical patriarchs.19 One of the most
appealing figures is the early British law-giver Dyfnwal Moelmud
(Geoffrey of`Monmouth’s Dunwallo Moelmutius). Iolo’s ‘Moelmutian’
triads use legal language to evoke an ideal early British society, a kind of
Golden Age, under this legendary leader, while an essay amongst his
manuscripts extrapolates an entire world from what seem to be largely
his own invented texts.20 Thus Iolo’s triads, mixed, in the Myvyrian, with

Bromwich 2006, 146. Sequences of Iolo’s triads also appeared in the second
volume of the Myvyrian.
Iolo Morganwg to Robert Macfarlan, 6 June 1804. Correspondence nr. 692.
For a detailed account of Iolo’s manipulation of the traditional triads see
Bromwich 1969.
National Library of Wales MS 13088B, 63–78. Iolo’s ‘Moelmutian’ vision of a
just society seems, by a somewhat circuitous route, to have impressed Karl Marx. See
letters written to Engels in March 1868 and May 1870, Marx and Engels 1975-2005,
120 Mary-Ann Constantine

the genuine articles, became the principal medium of his fictive bardic
grand narrative – a body of knowledge handed down through (invariably
Catholic) periods of repression and intolerance to keep the flame of true
Christian understanding alight. They were immensely popular in the
nineteenth century, and won considerable attention on the Continent
from scholars like Ferdinand Walter, Claude Fauriel and Adolphe Pictet
– the latter thrilled to find premonitions of Kant and Leibniz in the
wisdom, as he thought, of the ancient Celts.21
But valuable echoes of ancient times might equally be found in the
humbler proverbs of the people, and the third volume of the Myvyrian
also became the repository for earthier voices from the past. Reams of
sayings attributed to wisdom figures like Catwg Ddoeth (‘Wise Catwg’),
or the Bardd Glas (the ‘Blue Bard’) encapsulate the spirit of the Welsh
people through time: the running title for this section of the book is
‘Doethineb y Cymry’ (‘the Wisdom of the Welsh’).22 The sayings and
proverbs listed in the Myvyrian appear, like other texts, without interpre-
tative or descriptive commentary, but a sense of what such pieces might
have meant to Iolo comes across very vividly in a letter he wrote to
Owain Myfyr in April 1800. It demonstrates to perfection the spirit of
zealous interpretation and the inevitable direction of its flow:
Amongst my collection of proverbs used in Glamorgan, there is one that is
singular enough: a person on receiving useful instructions, information, &c.,
says of his instructor by way of complimenting him, ‘Hyfforddwr a fydd
gorddwr’ [He who instructs will become a churner]. This proverb is pretty
common, but I have never yet met with a person who seemed to me to
understand it.
Noting that the saying is never used in a derogatory manner, he suggests:

42: 547 and 43: 515-516. I am much indebted to Brian Davies for this information.
See Löffler 2007, 82-3; Pictet 1856. For Fauriel’s interest in matters Welsh see
Constantine 2007, 145-7.
The sayings of ‘Catwg Ddoeth’ emerge from a complex process of muddled
substitutions (not all, it must be said, attributable to Iolo) as the Iolo-ized version of
the Disticha Catonis, or ‘Sayings of Cato’, a popular school-text across Europe in the
late medieval period. Iolo also claimed that the ‘Bardd Glas’ was the ‘Glasgerion’
mentioned in Chaucer’s House of Fame.

‘Cordd’23 seems originally to have signified a collection into one body or

mass of what was before widely scattered, of parts theretofore in wide
seperation [sic] from each other; ‘corddi’, to collect into one mass, to incor-
porate into one body; ‘corddi ymenyn’, to collect into one mass the butter
that hitherto was dispersed or disseminated in very minute particles through
the whole milk; ‘trefgordd’, a community of people collected and associat-
ing together in one body, from amongst the hunters of woods and forests,
from amongst savage nomades in the first rude state of man (...) Now, if I
am right in my etymology of the words ‘cordd’ & ‘corddi’, the true sense of
the proverb will be, ‘He that can (or will) instruct mankind, will become the
head or chief of a community, or will be able to associate savages or scat-
tered inhabitants of woods (‘gwyddelod’)24 into a civilized body, mass, or
community’; or, in other words, ‘The instructor, or civilizer will become the
patriarch, founder, &c. of a nation or civilized body of men, the collector of
a number of individuals into one political mass’ – a very natural proverb for
the early states of human society. On similar ideas are founded the mytholo-
gies of Sesostris, Hermes Trismegistus, Zoroaster, Orpheus, Amphion, &c.,
&c. (...)
Supposing that I have hit on the true idea, it will follow that this proverb
of ours is extremely ancient, (...) I know a few instances, besides this, where
obsolete words not now understood by the common people, are still re-
tained in popular proverbs and idioms, though never used on any other
It is difficult to imagine a better example of what by the turn of the
century had become a Europe-wide, post-Herderian propensity to find
the beginnings of nationhood far back in time, preserved unwittingly in
the songs and sayings of the common people. Nice too, that such high-
flown sentiments, and such august philosophical company, should be
summoned by something as practical as churning butter. As we have
seen, instruction was at the very heart of Iolo’s bardic vision: for him the
early druids (who were also bards) were essentially teachers, not of some
select group of religious initiates, but of the people as a whole. Priests
were necessarily poets because they taught through the medium of po-

For ‘cordd’ and ‘corddaf: corddi’, see the entries in the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru.
Although Iolo’s connection of the two would have seemed plausible enough, the
meaning ‘tribe, clan’ and the verb ‘to churn, agitate’ are not in fact related; nor has the
phrase in question been otherwise recorded. I am grateful to Andrew Hawke for this
The word gwyddelod, as Iolo happily points out elsewhere, is also the Welsh word
for the Irish, and does indeed mean ‘dwellers in the woods’; there was little love lost
between Wales and Ireland during this period, which effectively predates the general
post-Romantic perceptions of Celtic-speakers bound together by a shared distant past
and ties of blood.
122 Mary-Ann Constantine

etry, through the triads, which were easily retained by the memory of
even the unlettered masses. Their enlightened, democratic – and, indeed,
Unitarian – doctrines could be recovered from both written and oral
sources, from the spoken proverbs he collected on his travels around
Wales (‘with all my ears open’, as he put it) as well as in the triads he
found in the libraries of the gentry or from ragged manuscripts passed
from hand to hand in smoky cottages:
From our ancient proverbs may be collected the sublimest truths of reli-
gion, the most refined precepts of morality, the happiest dictates of wisdom,
the most excellent maxims of prudence, the most elegant modes of expres-
sion, the neatest disposition, and the most rhythmical arrangement of the
words. They also throw great light on ancient usages and manners, and not
inconsiderably elucidate history.25
Such cryptic material was, inevitably, immensely rewarding to the eye of
faith, and where the necessary ideas failed to materialize Iolo could al-
ways provide them himself. His forgeries have long earned him the
opprobrium of medievalists, but, as Morfydd Owen has suggested, Iolo’s
fascination with the triads and his aptitude for coining them situate him
in a long line of antiquarians who, down the centuries, have preserved
and revitalized this distinctively Welsh genre (Owen 2007) Similarly
revisionist interpretations of other so-called forgers, James Macpherson
and Hersart de La Villemarqué among them, are now more inclined to
see them as transformative bearers, than betrayers, of their respective
traditions. I will return to the subject of forgery and betrayal at the end.
The putative fourth volume of The Myvyrian Archaiology is also of
interest. It was to have contained more medieval prose texts, those gen-
erally if somewhat erroneously known today as The Mabinogion, from the
title given them in 1838 by their translator, Lady Charlotte Guest. They
comprise a dozen or so stories from the fabulous native tales (including
the earliest Arthurian tale in Europe, and the complex interlinked narra-
tive of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi) through to the French-in-
flected chivalric romances. Since these much-discussed texts are now
often the first port of call for the new student of Welsh, and have come
to typify medieval Wales, their virtual absence from the literary landscape
of the time is worth noting. That absence was in part an accident of
circumstance: although various scholars, Sharon Turner and Sir Walter

Iolo Morganwg to Owain Myfyr, 17 June 1800. Correspondence, nr. 547.

Scott among them, urged William Owen Pughe to publish the transla-
tions at which he had laboured long and hard, he died before they could
go to press.26 But it also reveals the relative prestige of poetry, history
and law at this period in the defining of a national culture: one may note
Iolo’s own objection to the notion of ‘fable’ (a word invariably associated
in his writings with the works of Geoffrey of Monmouth) and his claim
that prose was a far less reliable receptacle for ancient ‘truths’ than
If the value of the Myvyrian’s edited texts has diminished with the
discovery of Iolo’s forgeries and advances in textual editing generally, its
English-language introduction, ‘A short review of the present state of
Welsh manuscripts’ has become more interesting with time. Iolo pro-
duced it after much nagging from Pughe and Myfyr (the first volume was
printed and waiting for ‘the flourish of a preface’ by August 1800: Iolo,
for various reasons both practical and psychological, did not manage to
write the piece until December).28 The essay went through many drafts
before appearing in its published version, and these drafts, preserved in
the huge and chaotic archive of Iolo’s manuscripts held at the National
Library of Wales, shed considerable light on the curiously pressured
atmosphere of the published piece: as I have said elsewhere (2007, 95), it
feels as if it has been written with clenched fists. Iolo defends the Welsh
manuscript tradition with vigour, stressing the abundance of manuscripts
dating from many different periods through which the ‘originals’ could
be traced; he gives the names of private collections and libraries, and a
brief history of previous scholarship, with the efforts of predecessors
such as Evan Evans duly acknowledged. The tone, however, is frequent-
ly angry and defensive, castigating both the English for their lack of
support and the Welsh upper classes for their lack of patriotic fervour
(‘these first-moving virtues, for such they certainly are, have almost
disappeared in Wales’, MAW 1: ix). There are moments of sudden ag-
Why Welsh Bibles were taken out of churches and burnt, as we have it
recorded, and English ones ordered to be used in the room of them, cannot

Parts of some of the tales did appear in the press. See Johnston 1957-58.
See especially his essay on the triads in his English collection, Williams 1794,
217-227. For Iolo’s ideas about orality and literacy see Constantine2007, 85-142.
William Owen Pughe to Iolo Morganwg, 28 August 1800; Iolo Morganwg to
William Owen Pughe, 19 December 1800. Correspondence, nrs. 561 and 570.
124 Mary-Ann Constantine

now be well known; we trust that, however hostile the politics of this coun-
try [i.e. England] were once towards our language, they have so far ceased
to be so, as to become absolutely indifferent about the matter. (MAW 1: x)
Such accusations hardly seem calculated to win over an audience new to
the Welsh material, nor, as Iolo expresses the hope elsewhere, to encour-
age sympathetic English scholars to learn the language. Subsequent
attempts to mollify his readers still fall some way short of expected levels
of urbanity: ‘We desire to be understood as speaking of past times, sin-
cerely hoping that those of the present will make amends before the
tribunal of the literary world’ (MAW 1: 10).
Another distinctive feature of the ‘Short review’ is the Ossian contro-
versy, strikingly absent from the published version but not from the
earlier drafts. Even in the awkwardly restrained published form it is an
obvious point of reference, the unnamed ‘imposture’ against which the
fidelity and reliability and historical depth of the Welsh tradition can be
measured. Ironically enough, the attacks on Ossian patently ventriloquize
comments made by James Macpherson’s arch-enemy, Samuel Johnson.
Thus Iolo does not merely adopt the position and basic assumptions of
Johnson concerning the Gaelic bard (including the erroneous claim that
there were no manuscripts in Scots Gaelic), but he echoes his very phras-
ing: ‘our bards’, says Iolo, ‘were not barbarians amongst barbarians; they
were men of letters (...) we talk not foolishly and incredibly of oral tradi-
tion’.29 Once again the emphasis is on Wales’s civilized early past, con-
ceived as everything that Ossian’s Scotland is not: literate, organized,
enhanced rather than destroyed by the Roman occupation, and assured
of continuity through the strength and continued presence of Welsh
itself: ‘our language, as some have imagined, is not altered’ (MAW 1:
xviii). In short, Iolo’s preface – an English-language introduction to a
collection of untranslated Welsh texts – is a tangle of resistance and
complicity, a gift for those interested in the paradoxes inherent (and
perhaps more intensely so amongst ‘minority’ cultures) in the struggle to
define national identity.

In a recent essay, Joep Leerssen (2006) sets out the case for the study of
a vast range of cultural artefacts – poems and novels, folk songs, dictio-

MAW 1: xviii. Compare Dr. Johnson (1775 2: 101): ‘He that cannot read may
converse with those that can; but the Bard was a barbarian among barbarians, who,
knowing nothing himself, lived with others that knew no more’.

naries, paintings, textual editions, museums and monuments – as central

to our understanding of the obvious, yet elusive, phenomenon of Euro-
pean nation-making during the Romantic period. They should not, he
suggests, be treated merely as preliminaries or by-products of ‘serious’
political nationalism, they are its raw material, expressing it, reacting to it
and creating it. A helpful taxonomy of different phases of cultural activ-
ity shows how the work of ‘salvage’ (inventorizing, rescuing, cataloguing,
collecting) forms the basis for ‘fresh productivity’ on national themes
(writing, composing, translating); a third phase then sees the conscious
‘propagation’ of an idea of nationhood through the public sphere (history
taught in schools, festivals, street-names, pageants). Broadly speaking,
these phases succeed each other in the development of a national sensi-
bility: the folk songs inspire the Lieder or the waltzes which will, eventu-
ally, be played by a National Orchestra in a National Concert Hall. The
pattern holds well enough for Wales, which was relatively early in ‘rescu-
ing’ its culture, if slow to realize its major institutions:30 but it is hard to
escape the observation that Iolo’s forgeries cut across these categories
with a striking simultaneity. His acts of creative salvage (retrieving/in-
venting poetry, triads and an early Welsh alphabet) had, by the year 1792,
already found an enduring means of propagation in his ceremony of
initiation, the Gorsedd of the Bards, still an integral part of the great
culture-fest which is the annual Welsh National Eisteddfod. Romantic
historical forgery, in other words, plays havoc with time, not only by
altering the past to suit the present (we are all guilty of that), but by
collapsing the historical and the creative mindset at precisely the point
when their separation seems to matter most.
Since Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger’s influential book of
essays on The Invention of Tradition (1983), it has become commonplace to
acknowledge the ‘creative’ element in the shaping of cultural history.
Few would now argue with the notion that cherished national myths
often rest on trembling foundations; and it can seem that once the neces-
sity for such myths has become the proper object of scholarly investiga-
tion, their ‘authenticity’ or otherwise almost ceases to be relevant. This
can be granted, but with one caveat: the often fraught debates over the
authenticity of poems, songs and documents believed (and then not

The federal University of Wales was founded in 1893; the National Museum and
the National Library (institutions of which Iolo had dreamed more than a century
previously) in 1907.
126 Mary-Ann Constantine

believed) to represent the very voice of the nation became events in

themselves, and had consequences. The Ossian debate (to be distin-
guished from the massive influence of the poems themselves) has been
credited, amongst other things, with the rise of literary historicism and
the birth of the Romantic fragment poem (Leerssen 2004; Levinson
1986). In Wales the ‘Iolo controversy’ came late, but it mattered greatly:
faith was shaken on a grand scale, with both positive and negative re-
sults. On the one hand the discovery of Iolo’s forgeries forced scholars
to undertake a comprehensive revision of their sources, thus advancing
the process of textual editing in Welsh. On the other hand, it could be
argued that it induced a painfully narrow attitude to ‘correctness’ that
stifled creative engagement with the texts of the past. For much of the
twentieth century Celtic Studies’ answer to the excesses of Romanticism
was philology, not as Vico envisaged it, but in its driest and narrowest
During this period of reaction The Myvyrian Archiology was inevitably a
lost text, a contaminated source, though one still cheerfully plundered by
the Celtic fringe. But perhaps by now we have enough distance to see it
for the remarkable achievement it was: an astonishing act of generosity
(Myfyr’s financial contribution is thought to have been between four and
five thousand pounds; Williams 1966: 9) and the product of long hours
of labour and diplomacy, which gave solidity to a literary tradition and
then delivered that tradition to a new, reading, public. The Myvyrian
became a key-stone in the nineteenth century Welsh national revival:
parts of it were reprinted in journals and pamphlets and the whole work
was re-edited in 1870 as a single volume (Löffler 2007, 82-83). A copy of
the now rare three-volume first edition is kept for readers’ use at the
National Library of Wales, nicely bound by a later nineteenth-century
owner with decorative marbled flyleaves. Just inside the first volume a
dedication in Iolo’s hand offers the work as a gift from the three editors
to fellow radical and ‘chief druid’ Tomos Glyn Cothi.31 Handwriting
never fails to move, and it is salutary to think of this man trying to write
his angry preface in the dark evenings after a day’s hard labour. Although
not perhaps with hindsight entirely fair, Iolo’s later, bitter, reproach to
his erstwhile friend and patron Owain Myfyr will do as a timely reminder
to those of us who now sit comfortably with the world’s knowledge at

‘Rhodd y Cyhoeddwyr ag o law Iolo Morganwg i’r Parchedig Dderwyddfardd
Thomas Glynn Cothi’.

our fingertips that it was not always thus: ‘In looking over my journals
and itinerary and summing up the whole, I find that I have travel’d afoot
for you more than two thousand miles from first to last.’32

B., E. 1701. A Trip to North-Wales: Being a Description of that Country and People.
Bromwich, Rachel. 1969. ‘Trioedd Ynys Prydain’ in Welsh Literature and Scholarship.
Cardiff: University of Wales Press
Bromwich, Rachel, ed.. & trl. 2006. Trioedd Ynys Prydein. 3rd ed.; Cardiff: Uni-
versity of Wales Press.
Carr, Glenda. 1983. William Owen Pughe. Caerdydd: Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru.
Carr, Glenda. 2005. An Uneasy Partnership: Iolo Morganwg and William Owen
Pughe, in Jenkins, 443-460.
Charnell-White, Cathryn. 2007. Bardic Circles: National, Regional and Personal
Identity in The Bardic Vision of Iolo Morganwg. Cardiff: University of Wales
Constantine, Mary-Ann. 2004. Ossian in Wales and Brittany. In The Reception of
Ossian in Europe, ed. Howard Gaskill, 67-90. London: Continuum.
Constantine, Mary-Ann. 2007. The Truth Against the World: Iolo Morganwg and
Romantic Forgery. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.
Correspondence: Geraint H. Jenkins, Ffion M. Jones and David Ceri Jones, eds.
2007. The Correspondence of Iolo Morganwg. 3 vols; Cardiff: Cardiff University
Evans, Robert. 2005, ‘The Manuscripts’: The Culture and Politics of Forgery in
Central Europe’, in Jenkins.
Herbert, Trevor and Gareth Elwyn Jones, eds. 1988. The Remaking of Wales in the
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Cardiff: University of Wales Press.
Johnson, Samuel. 1775. A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland. 2 vols.; Lon-
Johnston, Arthur. 1957-58. William Owen-Pughe and the Mabinogion, National
Library of Wales Journal 10: 323-8.
Jones, Owen and William Owen Pughe, eds. 1789. Barddoniaeth Dafydd ab
Gwilym. London.
La Villemarqué, Th. Hersart de. 1850. Poèmes bretons du VIème siècle. Paris.

Iolo Morganwg to Owain Myfyr, 5 April 1806. Correspondence, nr. 763 I am very
grateful to Geraint Phillips for his judicious comments on an earlier draft of this essay.
128 Mary-Ann Constantine

Leerssen, Joep. 2004. Ossian and the Rise of Literary Historicism. In The Recep-
tion of Ossian in Europe, ed. Howard Gaskill, 109-25. London: Continuum.
Leerssen, Joep. 2006. Nationalism and the Cultivation of Culture, Nations and
Nationalism 12: 559-578.
Levinson, Marjorie. 1986. The Romantic Fragment Poem: A Critique of a Form.
Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.
Lewis, Gwyneth. 1991. Eighteenth-Century Literary Forgeries, with Special
Reference to Iolo Morganwg. DPhil thesis, Oxford.
Löffler, Marion. 2007. The Literary and Historical Legacy of Iolo Morganwg,
1826-1926. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.
Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels.1975-2005. Marx/Engels Collecetd Works. 50
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McKenna, Catherine. 2006. Aspects of Tradition Formation in Eighteenth-
Century Wales, Memory and the Modern in the Celtic Literatures, (CSANA Year-
book, 5): 37-60.
Owen, Morfydd E. 2007. Traddodiad y Triawd Cyffredinol yn y Gymraeg a’r Myvyrian
Archaiology of Wales. Aberystwyth: Canolfan Uwchefrydiau Cymreig a
Cheltaidd Prifysgol Cymru.
Phillips, Geraint. 2005. Forgery and Patronage: Iolo Morganwg and Owain
Myfyr. In Jenkins, 403-23.
Phillips, Geraint. 2006. Bywyd a Chysylltiadau Llenyddol Owain Myfyr. PhD
thesis, University of Wales, Aberystwyth.
Pictet, Adolphe. 1856. Le mystère des bardes de l’île de Bretagne: ou, La doctrine des
bardes gallois du moyen âge sur Dieu, la vie future et la transmigration des âmes.
Morgan, Prys. 1981. The Eighteenth-Century Renaissance. Llandybië: Davies.
Williams, Edward. 1794. Poems, Lyric and Pastoral. London.
Williams, G.J. 1926. Iolo Morganwg a Chywyddau’r Ychwynegiad. Llundain:
Cymdeithas yr Eisteddfod Genedlaethol.
Williams, G.J. 1966. Hanes Cyhoeddi’r ‘Myvyrian Archaiology’, Journal of the
Welsh Bibliographical Society 10: 2-12.
EUROPEAN STUDIES 26 (2008): 129-149



Bernadette Cunningham

The Annals of the Four Masters, compiled by professional Irish his-
torians in the 1630s, were intended to provide a comprehensive chro-
nicle of Irish history from earliest times to the present. Written in
Irish, the work remained unpublished in the early modern period,
known only to antiquarian scholars. Later, in the atmosphere of civic
patriotism prevalent among Irish scholars in the 1840s, the work was
published in a dual language edition. At the same time, stories from
the annals were popularised in cheap magazines. The scholarship and
the ideology of their nineteenth-century editor, John O’Donovan,
coupled with the Gaelic and Catholic credentials of the original an-
nalists and the romantic perception of the annals as having rescued
Irish history from oblivion, made these annals a foundational text for
the emerging Irish Catholic nation in the nineteenth and twentieth

The Annals of the Four Masters is the popular title given to a chronicle
of Irish history compiled in the 1630s and eventually published in the
mid- nineteenth century (O’Donovan 1848-51). Written in the Irish
language by professional historians trained in the Gaelic tradition, the
annals recounted the history of Ireland, year by year, from the time of the
Biblical flood down to AD 1616. The Annals of the Four Masters were
derived principally from earlier manuscript sources, only a few of which
now survive. In the 1630s, most of those older source manuscripts were
in the hands of hereditary learned families in the north-west of Ireland,
in particular the families of Ó Cléirigh, Ó Maoil Chonaire, Ó
130 Bernadette Cunningham

Duibhgeannáin and Ó Luinín. None of these older sets of provincial

annals, however, were deemed suitable to seventeenth-century European
fashions in writing the history of nations and so a new research project
on the Irish past was undertaken in the 1630s. The historians involved
were drawn from the families of Ó Cléirigh, Ó Maoil Chonaire and Ó
Duibhgeannáin; the leader of the group was an Irish Franciscan lay
brother, Míchéal Ó Cléirigh. The new annals were intended to provide a
comprehensive chronicle of Irish history from earliest times to the pres-
ent. A key objective of the annalists was to demonstrate the antiquity of
the kingdom of Ireland and particular emphasis was placed on the suc-
cession of kings of Ireland, whose reigns were systematically docu-
mented (Cunningham 2005; McGowan 2004).
The original research project that culminated in the writing of the
Annals of the Four Masters was masterminded by the Irish Franciscans
who were based at the College of St Anthony in Louvain in the Spanish
Netherlands. That college had been founded in 1607 primarily to provide
a seminary education for Irish Catholic men who wished to be ordained
as priests. The experience of prolonged contact with educated men from
other nations had a lasting impact on Irish scholarship, and a renewed
interest in researching and writing Irish history, both secular and ecclesi-
astical was among the outcomes (Cunningham 1991). Inspired by con-
temporary European trends in the writing of national histories, there
were two main strands to the historical research of the Irish Franciscans
based at Louvain. One involved work on the lives of Irish saints, while
the second focussed on the secular history of Ireland. Arising from this
research, two substantial Latin volumes of Irish saints’ lives, edited by
John Colgan, were published in the 1640s: Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae of
1645 and Triadis thamaturgae acta of 1647. A new martyrology of Irish
saints was also compiled, though this was not published until the mid-
nineteenth century (Todd & Reeves 1864). A series of meticulously
planned historical compilations was also prepared, culminating in 1636
with the completion of the Annals of the Four Masters. These essentially
secular annals of Irish history compiled by Míchéal Ó Cléirigh and his
associates, were intended to be translated into Latin and made available
in print. However, for a variety of reasons, of which the scarcity of fund-
ing was probably the most significant, these comprehensive annals of
Irish history, which extended to over 400,000 words, were not published
in the seventeenth century. Instead, the work circulated in a very limited

way in two separate spheres through the seventeenth and eighteenth

Given the quite restricted circulation of the work when first pub-
lished, the manner in which the Annals of the Four Masters came to
prominence in the nineteenth century requires explanation. The story
begins in County Donegal in the north west of Ireland in the 1630s,
where the original compilers made at least two full sets of these new
annals. When completed, one set was taken to Louvain with a view to
publication, while another set was presented to the patron of the work,
Fearghal Ó Gadhra. Thereafter, the after-life of the work can be seen as
made up of two elements. The annals were used as a reference source in
the 1640s by the Irish Franciscan hagiographer, John Colgan, but after
his death in 1658 the Franciscan copy of the text appears to have lan-
guished largely unused for generations. Within the Franciscan order, the
contribution of the only Franciscan among the annalists, Míchéal Ó
Cléirigh, had already been eulogised in print as early as 1645, in a man-
ner that still resonated in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Mean-
while the set of autograph manuscripts that remained in Ireland circu-
lated in a limited way among a select number of scholars, including, for
instance, Dubhaltach Mac Fhirbhisigh in the 1640s, Roderic O’Flaherty
of Galway in the 1680s and Charles O’Conor of Belanagare in the mid-
eighteenth century (Ó Muraíle 1987). In the course of the eighteenth
century Charles O’Conor assembled an impressive private collection of
medieval and early modern Irish manuscripts, among them an autograph
set of the Annals of the Four Masters. One significant aspect of his
interest in these manuscripts can be discerned in the manner in which he
augmented the work with his own additions relating to O’Conor family
history (RIA, MS C iii 3 and TCD, MS 1301). In addition to this,
O’Conor commissioned transcripts of the annals for use by others inter-
ested in such sources.1 Partly through the efforts of O’Conor the idea
gained momentum that the text of these annals - and other Irish-lan-
guage treasures that had survived from earlier centuries - should be
published. Conscious both of the fragility of paper manuscripts and of
the decline in expertise which meant that few people living could read

RIA, MSS 23 F 2-3 and TCD, MS 1279 are late eighteenth-century transcripts of
the early portion of the Annals of the Four Masters, while RIA MSS 23 F 4-6 are
transcripts completed in 1778 of the later part of the same annals.
132 Bernadette Cunningham

the source texts O’Conor had collected, he observed to fellow antiquary

Chevalier O’Gorman in 1783:
Our originals (...) should be printed under the eye of a learned Editor, with
a literal translation in English or Latin. If this be omitted (as I foresee it
will) the treasures still preserved in our language will be as certainly lost as
those that have long since perished. (Cited O’Donovan 1848-51, 1: xxxviii)
When the Royal Irish Academy was formed in 1785, Charles O’Conor
was one of the founding members and within a few years the idea of
translating the Annals of the Four Masters was being given serious con-
sideration by this learned society.2 The activities of the Royal Irish Acad-
emy went into decline in the decades immediately following the imple-
mentation of the Act of Union of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801, but
the drive of men like the antiquarian scholar George Petrie spearheaded
a new era of vitality from the 1830s. In a scholarly atmosphere imbued
with civic patriotism, where particular importance was attached to col-
lecting antiquarian artefacts and manuscripts, publication of texts was a
logical further step in the process of bringing these records of Irish heri-
tage into public ownership (Leerssen 1996, 106-7; Mitchell 1985; Fitz-
Patrick 1988, 3-5).
Other learned societies, too, were formed. The belief in the national
importance of publishing editions of Irish manuscripts let to the forma-
tion of the Irish Archaeological Society on St Patrick’s Day 1840, under
the leadership of J.H. Todd specifically to arrange for the publication of
editions and translations of manuscripts of particular Irish historical
significance.3 That it was founded on the feastday of Ireland’s patron
saint symbolised a perception of the national rather than purely scholarly
significance of such work. The Celtic Society, with similar objectives was
founded in 1845, and the two subsequently merged to become the Irish
Archaeological and Celtic Society. The stated objective of the Irish Ar-
chaeological and Celtic Society was ‘to print, with accurate English trans-
lations and annotations, the unpublished documents illustrative of Irish
history, especially those in the ancient and obsolete Irish language, many
of which can be accurately transcribed and elucidated only by scholars
who have been long engaged in investigating the Celtic remains of Ire-

RIA, Council minutes, vol. I, p. 344 (18 Feb, 1797).
For an analysis of the membership of the Irish Archaeological Society see Murray
2000, 62-7.

land’. That the work was in the nature of a rescue mission is evidenced
by the assertion that ‘should the publication of these manuscripts be long
delayed, many most important literary monuments may become unavail-
able to the students of history and comparative philology’.4
John O’Donovan emerged as a pivotal figure in the editorial work
promoted by the Irish Archaeological Society. His knowledge of the
historic Irish language and the intricacies of the Irish manuscript tradi-
tion were a rare enough specialism in his intellectual circle in the 1830s
and 1840s. His work in this sphere was extensive, and he translated and
edited numerous dual language editions of Irish texts published by the
Irish Archaeological Society, and later by the Celtic Society. Works trans-
lated and edited by O’Donovan during the 1840s included The Banquet of
Dún na n-Gédh and the Battle of Magh Rath, an Ancient Historical Tale (1842),
The Tribes and Customs of Hy-Many, Commonly Called O’Kelly’s Country (1843)
and The Genealogies, Tribes, and Customs of Hy-Fiachrach, Commonly Called
O’Dowda’s Country (1844). He also contributed editions of shorter texts to
two miscellaneous volumes, Tracts relating to Ireland, vol. 1 (1841), and The
Miscellany of the Irish Archaeological Society, vol. 1 (1846). His edition of
Leabhar na gCeart, or the Book of Rights (1847) was published by the Celtic
Society, and he also edited the Miscellany of the Irish Celtic Society (1849).
Perhaps of even greater scholarly significance than the various
learned societies that emerged in mid-nineteenth-century Ireland was the
work of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland. This government-sponsored
project to create large scale maps of the entire island of Ireland, though
initially conceived as a military enterprise, served as a kind of proxy
university for a group of scholars interested in Irish topography, place-
names, folklore and antiquities. The personnel employed in the topo-
graphical department of the Ordnance Survey, headed by Sir George
Petrie, included people who were also active in the Royal Irish Academy
and the Irish Archaeological Society. An article by Sir Samuel Ferguson
published under the heading ‘Lord Romilly’s Irish publications’ in the
Quarterly Review gave due recognition to the vision of the leaders of the
Ordnance Survey project in promoting research on Irish history. Fergu-
son acknowledged not just the contribution of Sir George Petrie, but
also that of Sir Thomas Larcom, who had overseen the Ordnance Survey
project. ‘To him is mainly due the idea of attaching the loyal classes to

Annual report, The Irish Archaeological and Celtic Society, MDCCCLX: RIA,
134 Bernadette Cunningham

the cultivation of native letters, an idea which, if carried out as con-

ceived, would have forestalled Fenianism by infusing educated influ-
ences into all its material’.5
The fact that the Ordnance Survey provided the editor of the Annals
of the Four Masters, John O’Donovan, with his main source of employ-
ment between 1833 and 1842, was significant on several counts. It gave
O’Donovan the opportunity to conduct detailed research on the topogra-
phy of all parts of Ireland, and this corpus of research was incorporated
in the extensive notes to his edition of the annals. The work also brought
this Irish Catholic scholar to the notice of the predominantly Protestant
social elite who comprised the Irish Archaeological Society, and to others
in the intellectual circle of antiquaries in mid-nineteenth-century Dublin.
As part of a process of collecting artefacts and manuscripts of histori-
cal interest for the Academy, Sir George Petrie bought the original auto-
graph manuscript of the second part of the Annals of the Four Masters
at auction in 1831. The manuscript covered the years AD 1171 to AD
1616 and he immediately sold it to the Royal Irish Academy thereby
bringing it into public ownership. It was unbound and in poor condition
and the considerable sum of £53 that Petrie paid, then the equivalent of
more than 5 month’s wages for an educated person, was an indication of
the special regard in which this work was held. From then on, Petrie was
anxious that it should be published. He stressed
the necessity of giving durability, while yet in our power, to the surviving
historical remains of our country, and thereby placing them beyond the
reach of a fate otherwise inevitable. To me it appears a sacred duty on all
cultivated minds to do so. Had this compilation been neglected, or had it, as
was supposed, shared the fate of its predecessors, what a large portion of
our history would have been lost to the world for ever. (Petrie 1831, 387)
Petrie had a clear idea of the kind of edition required, and was particu-
larly keen that the Irish text should be printed using an appropriate
Gaelic font. By 1835 he had designed a new Gaelic type for use by the
Dublin University Press. Petrie’s ‘A’ type, funded by Hodges and Smith,
was modelled on the lettering in the Book of Kells. Although this type
was used in various printing projects in which Petrie was involved, in-
cluding the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy and publications of the
Ordnance Survey, it was planned by Petrie in 1832-33 when the publication
Ferguson 1868, 443. For the identification of Ferguson as the reviewer see Den-
man 1990, 195-213.

of the Annals of the Four Masters was first proposed (Kinane 1994, 130-
131; McGuinne 1992, 102-103).
The design and physical appearance of the Irish text of the Annals
was clearly regarded as important. While the use of a Gaelic script was
readily justifiable on scholarly grounds, as necessary for the accurate
representation of the written text, its significance transcended those
technicalities. Just as the Gaelic origins of Irish place-names were being
brought to light by O’Donovan and other researchers in the topographi-
cal department of the Ordnance Survey, so the Gaelic texts that were
central to Irish antiquarian research were being brought into the public
sphere through the medium of print. Their Gaelic character was what
defined the authenticity of these texts, and it was deemed necessary to
preserve the essence of that character in the print medium. It was part of
a process of re-Gaelicising the memory of the past, while demonstrating
the authenticity of texts (Leerssen 1996, 25; Leerssen 2002, 24-7).
Financing the publication of a text as large as the Annals of the Four
Masters proved to be a challenge. Neither the Irish Archaeological Soci-
ety nor the Royal Irish Academy had access to the necessary funds.6 The
Academy applied to the British Government for funding specifically for
the publication of the Annals, but without success.7 Thus, it fell to the
commercial publishing firm of Hodges and Smith to undertake the pro-
ject. The publisher, George Smith, paid John O’Donovan for his work of
translation and also Eugene O’Curry for his work in transcribing the
complete Irish text in a form suitable for use by the typesetter.8
The editorial scholarship associated with the Annals in the form they
were published was primarily topographical and genealogical in nature,
since these were O’Donovan’s areas of expertise. His translation is reli-
able and accomplished, but he did not aim at a full critical edition. Thus,
even though two autograph manuscripts of the later part of the annals
(post AD 1334) were available to him, he did not systematically represent
the variant readings of the two sources in his edition. He based his edi-
tion on one set of manuscripts (now RIA, MSS 23 P 6-23 P 7) while
referring in the notes to selected variants in the ‘college copy’ (now TCD,
MS 1301). O’Donovan’s primary objective was to make available a full
Irish text and English translation of an historical source he deemed to be

Hodges and Smith circular letter, 31 January 1844 (R.I.A., 12 I 15, p. 311).
RIA, Council minutes, VI, pp 64-70.
O’Lochlainn 1940, 179; RIA, Council minutes, VI, p. 218; Cunningham 2006a.
136 Bernadette Cunningham

of key significance as a comprehensive chronicle of Irish history. His

editorial method indicates that documenting the ‘facts’ of history was his
priority and this took precedence over the production of a critical edition
of the autograph manuscripts. In addition to its intrinsic value as a
source of historical information, it was anticipated that this pioneering
dual-language edition of a key text would be of special value to later
scholars in undertaking other planned translations of major Irish histori-
cal sources.9
O’Donovan’s three-volume 1848 edition of the Annals was well
received by the scholarly community, and the editor and publisher were
encouraged to complete the work by publishing the Irish text and an
English translation of the earlier section from AM 2242 to AD 1171.
This was completed and published in 1851. In issuing this edition of the
early part of the annals, the prior existence of a published Latin transla-
tion was not seen as a threat to the likelihood of commercial success.
This was because the 1826 Latin edition of the same pre-1171 Annals
had adopted a quite different approach to editing the text, which proved
far less satisfactory. Edited by Rev Charles O’Conor, grandson of the
eighteenth-century collector Charles O’Conor of Belanagare, it was the
third in a series of four volumes of Irish historical texts privately pub-
lished in England at the expense of the Duke of Buckingham (O’Conor
1826). That the translation prepared by O’Conor was into Latin rather
than English was unexceptional – and indeed Petrie and his circle ini-
tially gave serious consideration to Latin rather than English as the lan-
guage for their translation also.10 However, it was recognised that the use
of Latin would have confined its readership to a small highly-educated
elite, as happened with O’Conor’s edition. There were problems, too,
with O’Conor’s Irish transcript of the text. His rendering of the Irish text
was severely criticised by contemporaries for O’Conor’s failure to ex-
pand scribal contractions, and for the use of an italic rather than a Gaelic
type font to represent the Gaelic script. It was argued that these two
shortcomings made reading the Irish text extremely difficult for anyone
other than specialist scholars (O’Donovan 1848-51, 1: xxxi-xxxvi).
O’Conor’s edition was privately published and had a limited circula-
tion, and was never a serious commercial challenge to O’Donovan’s
edition as published by Hodges and Smith in 1848-51. A far more seri-
RIA Council minutes, V, pp 54-57.
RIA, Council minutes, IV, pp 295-6.

ous threat to the viability of the first edition of O’Donovan’s work had
emerged with the publication by Brian Geraghty in 1846 of a rival cheap
translation of the same annals covering the post-1171 period. This alter-
native translation was the work of a respected scholar, Owen Connellan,
and was published entirely in the English language without any parallel
Irish text. The text was augmented with footnotes taken without ac-
knowledgment from historical articles published in popular magazines by
other scholars, not least John O’Donovan.11 In the manner in which they
were presented by the publisher, the footnotes bore little or no relation
to the text of the annals they purported to eludicate, comprising instead
general essays on miscellaneous aspects of Irish history and genealogy.
Connellan’s translation of the annals was initially published in periodical
format, with over 700 subscribers, and was subsequently issued in book
form in 1846. The scholarly community recognised this enterprise as a
cheap stunt designed to capitalise on the undoubted market that existed
for publications drawn from authentic Irish historical sources. Connellan
claimed that he was refused permission to consult Irish manuscripts in
the library of the Royal Irish Academy because of his association with
the publisher Brian Geraghty’s whose opportunism threatened to under-
mine the viablity of O’Donovan’s edition being published by Hodges
and Smith.12 In a letter to John Windele of Cork, O’Donovan mocked
the edition and also criticised Connellan’s adoption of the title of ‘Irish
Historiographer’ to his late majesty, adding ‘I cannot but laugh at the
folly of his publisher in allowing him to assume such a name’. He also
accused Connellan of citing his own work ‘without a single word of ac-
knowledgement’.13 A fellow antiquary, William Hackett, wrestled with
his conscience when asking for a loan of Connellan’s serial edition from
John Windele in the spring of 1845, commenting that it was ‘a pity to
encourage such an invidious project but, as I would not consider my
borrowing it from you would be any benefit to the Publishers, I should
not scruple you sending it (or my receiving it rather) by some convenient
opportunity.’14 The 327 unsold copies of Connellan’s English translation

Articles by John O’Donovan in the Dublin Penny Journal and the Irish Penny Journal
were among those adapted without acknowledgement for Brian Geraghty’s publica-
tion. See Ferguson 1848, 359.
Connellan to John Windele, 24 July 1846 (RIA, MS 12 L 10/83).
O’Donovan to Windele, 4 January, 1845 (RIA, MS 12 L 9/6 ii).
Hackett to Windele, 6 Feb 1845 (RIA, MS 4 B 5/88).
138 Bernadette Cunningham

of the Annals, published by Brian Geraghty in 1846, were auctioned two

years later when the publisher was declared bankrupt. At about the same
time, O’Donovan’s much more ambitious, and much more expensive,
three volume dual-language edition of the same work went on sale for
the first time (Cunningham 2006a: 116-9). Connellan’s one-volume
cheap edition had retailed at £1.10s. whereas O’Donovan’s three-volume
1848 edition retailed at £8. 8s. with a special price of £6. 6s. for subscrib-
ers who had placed orders in advance of publication.15 The extended
edition, containing the full text from AM 2242 to AD 1616, comprising
six volumes of text and a seventh volume containing an index, which
was published in 1851, sold at the very considerable price of £14.14s.
The publishers were aware that the high price ‘chiefly confined the sale
to public institutions and men of large fortune’.16
The timing of the publication of O’Donovan’s edition of the Annals
was unfortunate, coming in the midst of a diastrous famine in Ireland
which had reached its peak during 1847, and initially the edition was not
a commercial success.17 Despite this, it was reviewed enthusiastically in a
variety of periodical publications of various political hues. The Church
of Ireland’s Irish Ecclesiastical Journal (1848) portrayed the work as an icon
of Irish ability to triumph over adversity. The reviewer observed that ‘In
a year of famine and great mercantile depression appeared the work
whose title heads this article, as it were an earnest of intellectual propri-
ety, and an omen of national convalescence.’18 Again writing from a
Protestant perspective in the Dublin University Magazine, the poet Samuel
Ferguson was equally enthusiastic. Looking at O’Donovan’s edition of
the Annals in the context of other contemporary publications including
George Petrie’s researches on round towers and William Reeves’s work
on papal taxation, Ferguson noted in a tone of national pride:
Our satisfaction is of a high and ennobling kind, for it is chiefly on account
of the country itself that we feel it. We never can despair of a country in
which works like these succeed one another, in such rapid and regular
succession, showing, as they do, a systematic application of calm and culti-
vated minds to the pursuit of that self-knowledge which will be found, after
all, to lie at the foundation of whatever just national feeling, of whatever

Hodges and Smith to Windele, 19 Mar. 1844 (RIA, MS 4 B 5/16).
Hodges and Smith, circular letter dated June 1855 (RIA, 12 L 15, p 571).
O’Donovan to Windele, 25 June 1852 (RIA, MS 4 B 12/83 i).
Review in Irish Ecclesiastical Journal, 5 (1848): 123.

permanent and wholesome public opinion, can be looked for or desired in

this country. (Ferguson 1848, 359).
Ferguson saw in these works of historical scholarship the potential re-
demption of Irish civilisation, in the aftermath of Famine and political
Society has, it is true, been almost shaken to pieces. We have, indeed, been
involved in a sea of troubles; but in the midst of that confusion and repul-
sion, the reconciling power of mind has been at work, settling and establish-
ing itself on sure foundations, by unseen but great and persevering labour,
for these noble works of learning which day by day begin to show their
heads above the waves of misfortune around us, rest upon deep and solid
superstructures. (ibid.)
Welcoming even the form in which the Annals were presented, Ferguson
enthused that O’Donovan’s edition was ‘in matter, in learned use of it, in
method, and in typographical excellence ... fit to take its place in any
shelf, of any European library, beside Camden, Mabillon or Muratori’
(ibid., 360)
Contrasting Irish scholarship with that then current in England, Fer-
guson welcomed the fact that in Ireland ‘all our labours in antiquity and
history’ contributed towards ‘the propagation, namely, of self-knowledge,
self-respect, and attachment to the country in which our lot is cast’.
Ferguson had clear opinions on the kind of history Ireland required to
underpin civic patriotism, in a country ‘where society itself has still to be
formed and consolidated, before we can begin even the slowest progress
towards greatness or prosperity’. A general narrative history, he believed,
would only lead to ‘feelings of regret and despondency’. Rather, he advo-
the histories we now want are particular and local; such as, it is true, would
furnish no material for large philosophic inductions, but such as will enable
us to know one another and the land we live in, and every spot of it, that
such knowledge may beget mutual confidence and united labour, and that
we may strive to advance our own and our country’s fortunes here in the
place assigned to us in the world. (ibid., 361)
Ferguson belonged to that generation of Protestant establishment literary
figures who sought to come to terms with being Irish while not yet fully
reconciled to all aspects of Irishness (Denman 1990, 4-5; Campbell 2006,
504-515). He and his circle had been primed to respect the value of the
Annals, so much so that Ferguson (1848, 362) could assert that ‘the fame
140 Bernadette Cunningham

of these annals of the O’Clerys has been so widely celebrated of late

years, that it is almost unnecessary to remind readers of the circum-
stances of their composition’. That fame had been enhanced by popular
poetry composed by men such as Thomas D’Arcy McGee (in his The
Irish Writers of the Seventeenth Century of 1846), as well as by articles by
John O’Donovan and others published in popular penny journals from
the 1830s. Weekly magazines such as the Irish Penny Journal, founded by
George Petrie in 1840, and the very similar Dublin Penny Journal
(1832–37) that Petrie had also promoted, were established ‘with national
as well as useful objects in view’, and these magazines brought topics of
historical, antiquarian and literary interest to a wide audience. Despite
this popularising of Irish historical material, men such as Ferguson for
whom the medieval texts in the Irish language were virtually a closed
book, displayed a certain lack of affinity with the kind of historical mate-
rial recorded in the annals. It is noticeable in his 1848 review of the
Annals that he had rather more to say about the editor’s footnotes than
about the text itself. Indeed, he explicitly stated that ‘it is mainly to Mr
O’Donovan’s notes that the reader, who is not a dry local or family
historian, or genealogist, must look for really interesting philosophic, and
picturesque matter’. He went on to indulge his poetic interests, inviting
young poets to accompany him through the notes ‘to find what we may
of picturesque or poetic material. And indeed, the notes furnish abun-
dant material of this kind for both poet and romance writer’ (372). For
Ferguson, this kind of work was an important means of nation building,
the sources containing ‘abundant material, from century to century, back
as far as tradition reaches, and capable, every particle of it, to be turned
to the loftiest national purposes.’ Yet, the poetic inspiration that might be
provided by the original Irish text of the annals was beyond the scope of
his interests. In this, Ferguson was not alone, and there is a sense in
which for many who have consulted the Annals since Ferguson’s day,
the learned notes of John O’Donovan have been seen as the most impor-
tant element of the publication. There is no doubt that O’Donovan’s
masterly edition has profoundly influenced subsequent perceptions of
the Annals as a classic source for understanding the Irish past. For some,
by the twentieth century, O’Donovan’s creation of a classic merited him
the title of the ‘fifth master’ (Ó Muraíle 1997). Overall, the enthusiastic
reception accorded the publication of the Annals, both in terms of the
quality of O’Donovan’s work as editor and the prestige character of the

finished product, cemented the reputation of the Annals of the Four

Masters as a highly significant source for the history of Ireland and its
localities from earliest times to the beginning of the seventeenth century.
Many other Irish historical texts were edited for print through the
later nineteenth century, including editions with English translations of
important older sets of Irish annals such as the Annals of Ulster, the
Annals of Loch Cé, and the Annals of Clonmacnoise. It was recognised
that the evidence of the Annals of Ulster, for example, was generally
more valuable to historians than that of the Annals of the Four Masters,
but yet these other annals never attained the cult status that came to be
associated with the work of the Four Masters. Other medieval and early
modern historical texts were also prepared for publication, some of them
as part of editorial projects that enjoyed British government funding.
Indeed, there was a concerted effort by certain scholars, such as J.H.
Todd and J.T. Gilbert, to ensure that Irish historical documents would
be accorded equal status with those of Great Britain, and funding was
obtained for some publishing initiatives on that basis. Such editorial
work was seen as one means of demonstrating that Ireland was no mere
province but a nation. In an era of political tension and cultural rivalries,
the authorities in England were acutely aware of the political expediency
of funding the publication of editions of Irish texts (Gillespie 2006). In
all these enterprises, the high standard achieved in editing the Annals of
the Four Masters provided inspiration and motivation to extend such
scholarship as a means of enhancing the reputation of the Irish nation.
From the time it was first published in 1848-51, the deluxe edition of
the Annals of the Four Masters could not fail to impress. Nothing on
that scale had previously been published in Ireland, and even the physical
appearance of the seven-volume set was impressive. But was it a national
classic? One way of tracing its subsequent influence is by examining the
manner in which the work was used by later historians. Among the many
narrative histories of Ireland to be published in the nineteenth century,
one of the more successful in incorporating evidence from annalistic
sources, most notably the Annals of the Four Masters, was Martin
Haverty’s History of Ireland, Ancient and Modern published by James Duffy
in 1860. That Haverty’s work proved popular is evidenced by the pro-
duction of a separate edition for use in schools, together with reprints of
his book in 1861, 1865 and 1867. P.W. Joyce’s A Social History of Ancient
Ireland published in a two-volume edition in 1903, drew heavily not just
142 Bernadette Cunningham

on the Annals of the Four Masters but also on the other Irish historical
texts that had been edited by John O’Donovan for the Irish Archaeologi-
cal Society. While noting of late ‘among Continental and British writers,
something like a spontaneous movement showing a tendency to do [the
Irish race] justice’, Joyce still believed his history was necessary because
the Irish ‘have never, in modern times, received the full measure of
credit due to them for their early and striking advance in the arts of
civilised life, for their very comprehensive system of laws, and for their
noble and successful efforts, both at home and abroad, in the cause of
religion and learning’ (Joyce 1903, 1: xi-xii). Joyce’s historical writings,
like those of Haverty, included works for children. His illustrated A
Child’s History of Ireland (1897: 10-11) included an introductory essay on
sources, noting the importance of the annals, especially the Annals of the
Four Masters. He expressed the hope that his book, ‘written as it is in
such a broad and just spirit, may help to foster mutual feelings of respect
and toleration among Irish people of different parties, and may teach
them to love and admire what is great and noble in their history, no
matter where found’ (vi).
Despite the best efforts of these and other historians to present acces-
sible narratives based on authentic medieval Irish sources as mediated by
mid-nineteenth-century translators, the nationalist writer Alice Stopford
Green opened her study of The Old Irish World (1912) with a despondent
chapter on ‘The way of history in Ireland’. She insisted that history was
‘portioned out to Irishmen as a fragment of English history’, and ‘Irish-
men are still driven to discuss in belated fashion the question that all
Europe settled long ago – Why should we make the history of our coun-
try our serious study?’ ‘As members of a nation’, she reiterated, ‘we are
bound to make History our all important study’ (Green 1912, 2-4). For
Green, one of the few bright points in nineteenth-century historical
research had been the work of the state-sponsored Ordnance Survey, and
she praised the scholarship of Sir George Petrie, John O’Donovan and
their colleagues, in ‘a kind of peripatetic University’, noting that ‘It is
such things as these that reveal to us the soul of Irish Nationality and the
might of its repression’ (55-56). Calling for further research to be carried
out on Irish place-names and Irish antiquities, she argued that ‘All histo-
rians, all Irishmen alike, must ardently join in such an entreaty, for the
honour of their land. Is it too much to hope that (...) Irish scholars may

yet be given the patriotic task of saving what yet remains on Irish soil of
the inheritance of her people’ (61).
Lacking knowledge of the Irish language, Green was limited in the
original research she could undertake on early Irish history, but major
progress in this sphere was achieved by Eoin Mac Neill, in his Phases of
Irish history (1919), and Celtic Ireland (1921). Mac Neill had been intro-
duced to the study of history by the Jesuit scholar Edmund Hogan, and
studied Irish with Douglas Hyde. He founded the Gaelic League in
1893, and subsequently became active in Irish nationalist politics
(Maume 2004; also Byrne & Martin 1971). Mac Neill, as professor of
Ancient Irish History at University College Dublin, argued that it was
necessary to go beyond the mid-nineteenth-century editions of Irish
texts, with the inevitable biases of their translations, and called for finan-
cial support for students engaged in the combined disciplines of history,
archaeology and Irish philology. Only in this way, he believed, could ‘our
Nation’s ancient story’ be given ‘the place it deserves in the world’s his-
tory’ (Mac Neill 1921, xiv-xv).
Mac Neill rejected implicitly the historicity of much of the pre-Chris-
tian content of texts such as the Annals of the Four Masters. While his
view came to be the orthodoxy in academic circles, the annals continued
to be relied on for the more local evidence they contained relating to the
medieval period. The ‘royalist’ master narrative of the Four Masters was
ignored, and emphasis was placed instead on other characteristics of the
work. Thus, the strands of history that emerged from the use of source
texts such as the Annals in the nineteenth century were attention to the
minutiae of local history and topography, the cult of individual heroes
and the stories of their military exploits, and the Christian heritage of
early Ireland.
In so far as Samuel Ferguson had been correct in his assessment in
1848 that narrative political history was best avoided in Ireland, and that
local history was the path to follow, O’Donovan’s edition of the Annals
of the Four Masters provided an important access point to the past. The
editor had devoted an entire volume to an index of names and places,
and together with his encyclopaedic annotations concerning individual
place-names and local family histories, even today the work is regularly
consulted by local historians and archaeologists concerned with medieval
Ireland. Scholars such as Edmund Hogan and P.W. Joyce would later
pursue a interest in Irish onomastics, which owed a considerable debt to
144 Bernadette Cunningham

the pioneering researches of O’Donovan. The value of the annals to

such scholars was clear, but that in itself did imply classic status. In
1910, however, it is little surprise to find that Hogan’s Onomasticon
Goedelicum (1910) is prefaced by the phrase ‘Dochum Glóire Dé ocus onóra na
hÉrenn’ (For the glory of God and the honour of Ireland). That phrase
was taken from Míchéal Ó Cléirigh’s 1636 dedication of the Annals to
his patron, Fearghal Ó Gadhra, and over time the phrase came to sym-
bolise all that the scholarship of the Annals represented. The adoption of
the same phrase as part of the banner of the Irish Press newspaper
founded in 1931 by Éamon de Valera continued subtly to propagate the
notion of Irish history, Irish Catholicism and Irish destiny being inter-
People like O’Donovan who edited historical texts in nineteenth-
century Ireland had little doubt but that their work, like that of the
seventeenth-century predecessors, was being undertaken ‘Do chum glóire
Dé agus onóra na hÉireann’ (For the glory of God and the honour of Ire-
land). From the nineteenth-century perspective, the very act of writing
history at a time of political and social upheaval could be interpreted as
an act of national heroism. By implying that the seventeenth-century
annalists had rescued the records a lost Gaelic civilisation, O’Donovan
had projected onto the original annalists the essence of his understanding
of his own role as a scholar in the 1830s rather than the 1630s in pre-
serving the annals for posterity. O’Donovan’s dedication of his edition
made explicit reference to Ó Cléirigh’s 1636 dedication of the annals to
their patron, and he thanked those who had ‘eminently distinguished
themselves by their exertions in promoting the story of Irish History and
Antiquities’ by pursuing ‘the cause of ancient Irish literature, at a period
when it had fallen into almost utter neglect’ (O’Donovan 1848-51, 1: v-
vi). Projecting back onto the seventeenth-century Four Masters the ‘res-
cue mission’ of the nineteenth-century antiquarians had several conse-
quences. First, it attached a high rarity value to the contents of the an-
nals, presenting them as a national treasure, a rare survival from a once-
rich culture. The fact that the annals had not been issued in print in the
seventeenth century contributed to this sense that they were the last
fragments of a lost civilization. Secondly, it fed into the story of Gaelic
Ireland having been destroyed by the might of England, so that it was
argued that even the very memory of that society would have been oblit-
erated were it not for the work of the Four Masters. Thirdly, it created a

sense of continuity between the activities of nineteenth-century scholars

and those of the late medieval Gaelic tradition, where in truth the eigh-
teenth century had been decidedly a period of discontinuity.19 Fourthly, it
enhanced the reputation of O’Donovan and his mid-nineteenth-century
collaborators, ultimately according them a role as shapers of the modern
Irish nation.20
While it has been convincingly demonstrated by late twentieth-cen-
tury historians that the Annals were not conceived as a rescue mission in
the seventeenth century but rather as a carefully constructed chronicle of
history for the Irish Catholic community in Ireland and overseas, the
alternative interpretation that formed part of O’Donovan’s editorial ‘pack-
age’ still survives in popular interpretations of the work of the Four
Masters. The annals were seen as a rare bright light in the sea of oppres-
sion, defeat and loss that had emerged as the master narrative in the
story of Ireland (Foster 1993, 1-20). The cult of Mícheál Ó Cléirigh that
arose from this was one manifestation of the national significance of the
annals. Evidence of Ó Cléirigh’s cult status in the late nineteenth century
is provided, for example, by the work of journalist and popular historical
writer, Eugene Davis, whose ‘Souvenirs of Irish footprints over Europe’
was published in serial form in the Evening Telegraph and Freeman’s Journal
newspapers in 1888-9. In addition to tracing the footprints of early
Christian Irish saints in Europe, Davis also went in search of the sites in
Louvain associated with Micheál Ó Cléirigh. Citing poetry from the
1840s composed by Thomas D’Arcy McGee, Davis presented an ideal-
ised picture of the world of the Four Masters. It seems clear from the
work of popular writers such as McGee and Davis that the memory of Ó
Cléirigh was deliberately cultivated as an icon of Catholic Ireland. Ó
Cléirigh’s Franciscan credentials and his humble status as a lay brother
made him a particularly appropriate hero.
As the nineteenth century came to a close, the cult of Míchéal Ó
Cléirigh showed no signs of abating. Writing a survey of Irish literature
first published in 1899, Douglas Hyde, an influential scholar and collec-
tor of folk literature who later became the first protestant President of
Ireland, presented Ó Cléirigh and the Annals of the Four Masters in the
following terms:

For the discontinuities, see Cunningham 2006b and Rankin 2006.
In 1962 commemorative postage stamps were issued to mark the centenary of
the deaths of John O’Donovan and Eugene O’Curry: Buchalter 1972, 63.
146 Bernadette Cunningham

Before O’Clery ever entered the Franciscan Order he had been by profes-
sion an historian or antiquary, and now in his eager quest for ecclesiastical
writings and the lives of saints, his trained eye fell upon many other docu-
ments which he could not neglect. These were the ancient books and secu-
lar annals of the nation, and the historical poems of the ancient bards. (...)
There is no event of Irish history from the birth of Christ to the beginning
of the seventeenth century that the first inquiry of the student will not be,
‘What do the “Four Masters” say about it?’ for the great value of the work
consists in this, that we have here in condensed form the pith and substance
of the old books of Ireland which were then in existence but which – as the
Four Masters foresaw – have long since perished. (Hyde 1899, 574-580)
If O’Donovan had not already ensured that the Annals of the Four Mas-
ters would be regarded as a national classic, the endorsement of Douglas
Hyde certainly helped confirm the status of the work. As the twentieth
century progessed, the Franciscan order, too, embraced Ó Cléirigh as a
potent symbol of Catholic Ireland (Cunningham 2007).
In the Irish Free State after 1922, as in the nineteenth-century ‘prov-
ince’ of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the study of
history both national and local was important, not least because recalling
the story of Ireland seemed a more achievable objective than reviving the
national language. While an ‘800 years of oppression’ school of national-
ist history also came to the fore and informed contemporary politics, for
those who looked to the ancient past for affirmation of the value of
Irishness, the pages of the Annals of the Four Masters continued to
provide inspiration. The annals were valued for the affirmation they
provided regarding the antiquity of the kingdom of Ireland, the strength
of the Irish Christian heritage, and the tradition of the Irish language
through the medium of which those various elements of the Irish past
had been preserved for posterity. The Annals were not easily read as
narrative history, but yet it was recognised that something of the histori-
cal essence of Irishness was captured in their pages.
In the fledgling Irish state of the early twentieth century, there was a
strong growth in interest also in folklore and in local history as a way
into a different, more balanced view of the Irish past (cf. O’Leary 2004).
The capacity of the Annals of the Four Masters, in the form in which
they were presented to readers in the mid-nineteenth-century edition, to
connect local places and communities into the national story, through the
minutiae of John O’Donovan’s topographical information, was perhaps
their most important characteristic. O’Donovan’s achievement was to

take a text that had been almost vanished without trace and make it
accessible to a wide public, whether in the full dual language edition that
adorned scholarly libraries or through the stories from the annals that he
and others popularised in penny magazines. The enhanced product that
was O’Donovan’s nineteenth-century edition of the Annals, together
with the Catholic credentials of the original annalists, and the romance of
a rescue mission, together created a foundational text for an emerging
republic out of the royalist ‘Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland’.

Buchalter, M. Don, ed. 1972. Hibernian specialised catalogue of the postage stamps of
Ireland, 1922-1972. Dublin: Hibernian Stamp Co.
Byrne, F.J. and F.X. Martin, eds). 1973. The Scholar Revolutionary: Eoin MacNeill,
1867-1945, and the Making of the New Ireland. Shannon, Irish University Press.
Campbell, Matthew. 2006. Poetry in English, 1830-1890: From Catholic Eman-
cipation to the Fall of Parnell’, in The Cambridge History of Irish Literature, ed.
Margaret Kelleher and Philip O’Leary, 1: 500-543. Cambridge:, Cambridge
University Press.
Cunningham, Bernadette. 1991. The Culture and Ideology of Irish Franciscan
Historians at Louvain, 1607-1650. In Ideology and the historians, ed. Ciarán
Brady, 11-30, 223-227. Dublin, Lilliput.
Cunningham, Bernadette. 2005. The Making of the Annals of the Four Masters.
PhD thesis, University College Dublin.
Cunningham, Bernadette. 2006a. ‘An Honour to the Nation’: Publishing John
O’Donovan’s Edition of the Annals of the Four Masters, 1848-1856. In
Print Culture and Intellectual Life in Ireland, 1660-1941, ed. M. Fanning and R.
Gillespie, 116-142. Dublin, Woodfield.
Cunningham, Bernadette. 2006b. Historical Writing, 1660-1750. In The Oxford
History of the Irish Book III: the Irish book in English, 1550-1800, ed. Raymond
Gillespie and Andrew Hadfield, 264-281. Oxford: Clarendon.
Cunningham, Bernadette. 2007. Remembering Mícheál Ó Cléirigh. In Writing
Irish History: The Four Masters and their World, ed. E. Bhreathnach & B.
Cunningham, 76-83. Dublin: Wordwell.
Denman, Peter. 1990. Samuel Ferguson: Thee Literary Achievement. Gerrards Cross:
Colin Smythe.
Ferguson, Samuel. 1848. The Annals of the Four Masters. Dublin University
Magazine, 31..
[Ferguson, Samuel]. 1868. Lord Romilly’s Irish publications. Quarterly Review
124: 423-45.
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FitzPatrick, Elizabeth. 1988. The Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the Royal Irish
Academy: A Brief Introduction. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy.
Foster, R.F. 1993. Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History.
London: Allen Lane.
Gillespie, Raymond. 2006. Printing History: Editing and Publishing Historical
Documents in Nineteenth-century Ireland. In Print Culture and Intellectual Life
in Ireland, 1660-1941, ed. M. Fanning and R. Gillespie, 74-94. Dublin:
Green, Alice Stopford. 1912. The Old Irish World. Dublin: M.H. Gill.
Hyde, Douglas. 1899. A Literary History of Ireland, from Earliest Times to the Present
Day. London.
Joyce, P.W. 1903. A Social History of Ancient Ireland. 2 vols.; London: Longmans,
Kinane, Vincent. 1994. A History of the Dublin University Press, 1734-1976. Dub-
lin: Gill & Macmillan.
Leerssen, Joep. 1996. Remembrance and Imagination: Patterns in the Historical and
Literary Representation of Ireland in the Nineteenth Century. Cork: Cork University
Leerssen, Joep. 2002. Hidden Ireland, Public Sphere. Galway, Arlen House.
Maume, Patrick. 2004. Eoin Mac Neill. In Oxford DNB. Oxford: Oxford Uni-
versity Press.
McGowan, K. Megan. 2004. The Four Masters and the Governance of Ireland
in the Middle Ages. Journal of Celtic Studies 4: 1-41.
McGuinne, Dermot. 1992. Irish Type Design: A History of Printing Types in the Irish
Character. Dublin: Irish Academic Press.
Mac Neill, Eoin. 1921. Celtic Ireland. Dublin: Martin Lester.
Mitchell, G.F. 1985. Antiquities. In The Royal Irish Academy: A Bicentennial His-
tory, 1785-1985, ed. T. Ó Raifeartaigh, 93-163. Dublin: Royal Irish Acad-
Murray, Damien. 2000. Romanticism, Nationalism and Irish Antiquarian Societies,
1840-80. Maynooth: Department of Old and Middle Irish, NUI Maynooth.
O’Conor, C., ed.. 1826. Rerum Hibernicarum Scriptores, Tom III: Annales IV Magis-
trorum. Buckingham.
O’Donovan, John, ed.. 1848-51 Annála Ríoghachta Éireann. Annals of the Kingdom
of Ireland, by the Four Masters, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1616, Edited
from MSS. in the Library of the Royal Irish Academy and of Trinity College Dublin,
with a Translation and Copious Notes. 7 vols.; Dublin.
O’Leary, Philip. 2004. Gaelic Prose in the Irish Free State. Dublin: UCD Press.
O’Lochlainn, Colm. 1940. John O’Donovan and the Annals. Irish Book Lover, 27.
Ó Muraíle, Nollaig. 1987. The Autograph Manuscripts of the Annals of the
Four Masters. Celtica 19: 75-95.
Ó Muraíle, Nollaig. 1997. Seán Ó Donnabháin: ‘An cúigiú Máistir’. Léachtaí
Cholm Cille. 27: 11-82.

Todd, J.H. and W. Reeves, eds. 1864. The Martyrology of Donegal: A Calendar of the
Saints of Ireland: Féilire na naomh nErennach. Dublin.
Petrie, George. 1831. Remarks on the History and Authenticity of the Annals
of the Four Masters. Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy 16: 381-393.
Rankin, Deana. 2006. Historical writing, 1750-1800. In The Oxford history of the
Irish book III: the Irish book in English, 1550-1800, ed. Raymond Gillespie and
Andrew Hadfield, 282-300. Oxford: Clarendon.
EUROPEAN STUDIES 26 (2008): 151-167



João Dionísio

This essay examines the connection between nation-building and
editorial activity in Portugal towards the end of the eighteenth cen-
tury. It focuses on the hypothesis that the Lisbon 1755 earthquake (i)
fuelled the will to publish unknown preserved documents which,
should another earthquake occur, could be utterly destroyed and
thereby (ii) speeded up the development of palaeography and
diplomatics as core disciplines in the preservation of textual informa-
tion. The article focuses on José Correia da Serra, who between 1790
and 1793 directed the Royal Academy of Sciences’ edition of a
Collecção de Livros Ineditos da Historia Portugueza. Special attention is
given to the criteria behind the selection of the texts which were
edited in the Collecção, the rationale of this edition, and its reception.
Taken together, these different aspects of Correia da Serra’s work
suggest that already in his time and in the years to come nation build-
ing was carried out regardless of scholarly editing.

In an issue of the American newspaper Baltimore Patriot dated 5 February

1818, an article bearing the title ‘Something new in diplomacy!’ vigor-
ously criticizes Abbe José Correia da Serra, at that time Portuguese am-
bassador to the United States. The beginning of the article presents him
cumulatively in the following series of epithets: ‘that philosopher, that
modern Socrates, the distinguished preceptor of Robert Walsh Jr, to wit,
(…) the Jesuit, the mock and scientific representative of that pious and
humane king John of Portugal’(Bourdon 1975, 360). By then, the charac-
terisation of Correia da Serra as ‘that modern Socrates’ was already a
152 João Dionísio

conventional way of portraying him. On 12 March 1818, in a letter Rob-

ert Walsh Jr. sent to Francis Walker Gilmer, he called Correia da Serra
‘our Socrates’, maybe referring half-humorously to the dedication of the
1817 edition of Henry Marie Brackenridge’s Views of Louisiana, a set of
narratives of the author’s journey up the Missouri River (Davis 1955,
120). In the dedication one reads:
the profound maxims, upon every subject, which like the disciples of Socra-
tes, we treasure up from your lips, entitle us to claim you as one of the
fathers of the nation.(Davis 1955, 123)
The purpose of this essay is to see to what extent we are allowed to view
Correia da Serra not only as a father of the United States, but also more
modestly as a begetter of Portugal due to his editorial activity. In order
to do this I will refer back to the second half of the eighteenth century.
Having been raised in Italy, where he took orders, Correia da Serra
belongs to a group of people generally known as estrangeirados, ‘Euro-
peanized intellectuals’ who focused on foreign European culture through
which they fought clericalism, aristotelianism and superstition in Portu-
guese education and culture (Simões et al. 2004, 2006). They are tradi-
tionally viewed as the highest representatives of the Enlightenment pe-
riod in Portugal because of the core role they played in the 1770s reform
of education promoted by the Marquis of Pombal or in the the Academy
of Sciences created in 1779 by the Duke of Lafões and Correia da Serra.
The international ideology in their actions characterises to some extent
their writings.
Between 1790 and 1793 the Royal Academy of Sciences of Lisbon
published three infolio volumes of a series generally entitled Colecção de
Livros Ineditos da Historia Portugueza (collection of unpublished books of
Portuguese history), the edition being directed and made by Correia da
Serra. These volumes, each running to over 600 pages, were the Acad-
emy’s most expensive publications, volume 1 costing 1800 reis (Serra
1790, 627), much more than the second most expensive book issued by
the Academy, which cost 800 reis (Memorias Economicas da Acad. Real das
Sciencias de Lisboa, para o adiantamento da Agricultura, das Artes, e da Industria
em Portugal, e suas Conquistas). Lisbon bookshops selling the Colecção were
Gazeta, Borel and Bertrand, beside an unnamed shop in the university
town of Coimbra. Two of these three Lisbon bookshops were the prop-
erty of originally French families (Domingos 2000; Guedes 1987, 15-44;
Caeiro 1980: 311; Guedes 1988: 69). Strictly Portuguese at the start, the

distribution of the Colecção (and of other Academy books) became

broader in 1793: volume three was also to be sold in Leiden, through
Johannes and Samuel Luchtmans II (actually the latter had passed away
in 1780), the heirs of Samuel Luchtmans, a town and university printer in
1730 with contacts with scholars all over Europe. The Colecção was also
sold in Paris by the bookseller and publisher Théophile Barrois le jeune.
These three volumes should be seen against a complex backdrop, in
which I highlight two aspects. Institutionally, it should be remembered
that before the Royal Academy was established (and so before the series
of historical texts edited by Correia da Serra was published) there had
existed another institution of a similar kind, the Royal Academy of His-
tory. Founded in 1720, it was the first Academy to be created with royal
support. Its ideology, involving the subordination of civil history to
religious history and the predominance of an apologetic point of view
towards religion and the royal dynasty, ran counter to the spirit of the
Enlightenment – notwithstanding the fact that some of the works pro-
duced by its members are still useful today (e.g. Historia Genealogica da
Casa Real Portuguesa, by D. António Caetano de Sousa, 1735-48; Bibliothe-
ca Lusitana , by Diogo Barbosa Machado, 1741-59; cf. Curto 2001-2002:
35; Lopes 1971: 14-15). Although such prejudices do not manifest them-
selves in Correia da Serra’s collection, the new Academy did follow in
the footsteps of previous projects involving a thorough or selective
mapping out of Portuguese Literature and History. This needs to be kept
in mind when we encounter claims to the effect that the new Academy
of Sciences made a clean sweep of past institutions so as to bring the
light of knowledge to Portugal (Curto 2001-2002: 28-43). It is true, all
the same, that the Academy had much broader goals in mind than earlier
similar institutions. According to the 1780 version of the Statutes Plan, it
was the love of the nation, combined with royal support, that stimulated
the foundation of the Academy, consecrated to the public glory and
welfare (gloria e felicidade publica) in order to develop national instruction,
the perfection of the sciences and the arts, and to increase popular pro-
ductive labour (industria Popular).
Secondly, to situate the beginnings of the Academy and of its editorial
activity properly, we should take into consideration the intellectual ef-
fects caused by the great Lisbon earthquake, which had occurred a quar-
ter of a century before the Academy was created, in 1755. In the words
of an English merchant living in Lisbon at that time:
154 João Dionísio

When, about Ten o’Clock, without the least warning, a most dreadful Earth-
quake shook by very short but quick Tremblings, the Foundations from
under the Superstructures, loosening every Stone from its Cement. Then,
with a scarce perceptible Pause, the Motion changed, and every Building
rolled and jostled like a Ship at Sea; which put in Ruins almost every House,
Church, and Publick Building, with an incredible Slaughter of the Inhabit-
On 1 November, All Saints’ day, between 9.30 and 10 a.m., when many
people were gathered in churches, an earthquake occurred, measuring 8.5
to 9.0 on the Richter scale, and went on for approximately 9 minutes. It
was followed by a number of fires all over downtown Lisbon which
raged for five or six days, and finally by a tsunami, a gigantic wave rare
on the Atlantic coast. Of the estimated 20,000 houses then existing in
Lisbon, only 3000 could be securely occupied after the quake, which
mainly affected the medieval centre of the city. About 8000 people died,
that is, five per cent of the city dwellers. The tower of St. George’s Cas-
tle, which hosted the documents of the Royal Archive, was destroyed.
It has been pointed out that a consequence of the earthquake was a
feverish desire to reconstruct and to remap the city, of which there were
few descriptions and maps before it happened (Sequeira 1967, 17). The
natural cataclysm may have had a similar effect in editorial terms by
fuelling the will to publish those surviving documents which, should
another earthquake occur, stood in danger of total destruction. The
eagerness to protect historical and literary documents from natural disas-
ters must have sped up the development of palaeography and di-
plomatics as core disciplines in the preservation of textual information.
The Academy of Sciences took part in the process by promoting a gen-
eral inventory of documents, mainly in religious archives, involving
members such as Joaquim de Santo Agostinho, Santa Rosa de Viterbo
and, above all, João Pedro Ribeiro.2 On the other hand, however, the

Jackson 2005, 147. One might here recall that the earthquake totally destroyed
the building of the Bertrand bookshop, later to become one of the selling points of the
Colecção, and also the Bertrand storehouse: ‘l’incendie du Tremblement de Terre du
premier Novembre de 1755 en aiant consume toute l’Impression, ainsi que tout ce que
nous avions de librarie (…) ce n’était gueres le tems, après la perte que nous avions
fait dans ce terrible Tremblement de Terre d’un fonds aussi considerable comme celui
que nous avions en livres…’ (cf. Guedes 1987, 34).
Ribeiro taught Diplomatics, a subject formally created in 1796 at the University
of Coimbra, having obtained a post at the Royal Archive in 1801 (Gomes 2001, 44). In
the preface to volume 1 of the Colecção there is the announcement of the thorough

earthquake must have represented an epistemological tabula rasa, some-

thing that some members of the Academy cherished as a necessary con-
dition for the cultural and educational development of the country. After
all, rebuilding the memory of the nation involved two contradicting
activities: silencing some textual debris to the condition of unrecognis-
able ‘objects that once belonged to a building’ and exalting other textual
debris to function as the axis of the reconstruction.3
The connection between the Academy’s editorial projects and a re-
newed historical self-awareness is not immediately conspicuous in the
Statutes Plan of the Academy. In fact, the Plan presents the third Class
of the Academy (Bellas Letras) as having to do with the several branches
of Portuguese Literature. One will have to look at the prologue of vol. 1
of Memorias de Litteratura Portugueza, the journal of this Class, to get an
explanation of the sense in which the expression ‘Portuguese Literature’
is used. ‘Portuguese Literature’, one is told there, refers to Portuguese
Language and History, which are to be analyzed in all possible features
and connections (Ribeiro 1872, 38-39).4 Much more than Portuguese
Language, History would constitute the cherished territory cultivated by
the Academy at the beginning of its existence, which is evidenced by and
large by the publication of Correia da Serra’s Colecção.
What were the explicit factors that stimulated Correia da Serra to edit
historical texts, and what were the criteria that led him to select precisely
the texts he edited? One way of answering these questions is by analys-

research in the national and foreign cartórios, to be carried out by João Pedro Ribeiro e
Joaquim José Ferreira. To place this sort of initiative in the European context, see
Leerssen 2006, 567.
I am quoting from Gumbrecht’s comment on the debris of Heidelberg’s Castle,
when he assigns to the ruins a slow rhythm of change ending in a ‘possible future
when the debris will no longer be recognizable as objects that once belonged to a
building’ (Gumbrecht 2003, 9-10).
Although there are several language-related documents in the Correia da Serra
Archive, it was the History branch that predominated in the Academy’s first decades.
On documents about language, see, e.g., A57 (Correia da Serra archive, hosted by I. A.
N. / Torre do Tombo), which comprehends very inchoative ‘Materiaes para o Glos-
sário Portuguez’, ‘Da origem immediata da Lingoa Portugueza / Modo Fizico com q-
se ella formou, e cauzas / Quanto aos sós / Quanto à sintaxe / Dos períodos de
variaçaõ da Lingoa Portugueza e cauzas. / Do estado actual da Lingoa Portugueza. /
Das perfeições e defeitos actuaes. / Do modo de augmentar huas, e evitar os outros’,
apart from some contrastive observations on Portuguese, French and Italian languages
and on the orthography and pronunciation of Portuguese. There are also some notes
on the usefulness of certain manuscripts (kept in Alcobaça) for the Dictionary of the
Academy and for a History of the Portuguese Language.
156 João Dionísio

ing the main epigraphs in the Colecção; another is to scan the paratext that
prefaces the first volume of the series.
On the title page of the Colecção’s three volumes there is a significant
quote from Horace’s Epistles II, ii, 115-116: ‘Obscurata diu populo,
bonus eruet, atque Proferet in lucem [speciosa vocabula rerum]...’ In
Fairclough’s translation: ‘Terms long lost in darkness the good poet will
unearth for the people’s use and bring into the light – [picturesque
terms]’. Putting himself in Horace’s shoes, Correia da Serra plans to
reveal texts previously neglected, and claims that there is fruitfulness in
this retrieval. The quote is doubly meaningful, as regards the Academy’s
aim of public instruction and as regards the Enlightenment spirit. In
contrast with Horace’s quote, the one with which the Preliminary Dis-
course of volume 1 starts is more general. It is taken from Lucretius, De
Rerum Natura I, 927: ‘Juvat intêgros accedere fontes’. In Rouse’s transla-
tion: ‘I love to approach virgin springs [and there to drink]’. As a matter
of fact, ‘virgin springs’ seem simply to duplicate Horace’s ‘terms long
lost in darkness’.
The short Preliminary Discourse of the Colecção (Serra 1790, VII-XI)
starts out with the editor’s statement that necessity and glory impelled
him to study Portuguese History. Necessity, he writes, because if one is
to understand the present one must know the past; glory because actions
of his ancestors affected all humankind. This last remark is an obvious
allusion to the Portuguese naval discoveries of the fifteenth and six-
teenth centuries. A logical progression is thus suggested: since (1) in
order to know the present, one has to know the past, and since (2) the
acts of our ancestors affected humankind, (3) people from other coun-
tries should be aware of the history of Portugal. This tallies both with the
international distribution of the Colecção and with Correia da Serra’s inter-
nationalist ideology.
In the Preliminary Discourse’s next paragraph, the editor claims that
study without certainty is vain, notably in the field of History, where one
is bound to deal with remnants:
The remnants that people left in monuments and the narration of contem-
porary people, that is all one has and if by chance [por ventura] they are ab-
sent, there is neither inventive ingeniousness [viveza de engenho] nor sharp
reasoning [agudeza de raciocínio] that may overcome its absence.
Correia da Serra asserts later that these remnants, these narrations, which
correspond to Horace’s ‘terms long lost in darkness’ and to Lucretius’

‘virgin springs’, are the basis for certainty, and that books which fail to
take them into account are superfluous. The fact that these works, which
he does not identify, exist in large numbers shows that Portuguese peo-
ple have been obscenely uninterested in having access to source docu-
ments. His collection should thus compensate for this historical weak-
ness and represent a vigorous back-to-basics movement – back to the
textual basics, that is.
This is why, as is stated in the fifth paragraph, the Academy has de-
cided to publish such ancient books, memories and monuments of the
Monarchy as were spared by Time (or rather, one should perhaps say, by
Time’s more tangible representation, the earthquake). Only when this
work is finished, Correia da Serra continues, will we know what Portugal
was, what past actions there were relevant to history, their causes and
effects.5 In the concluding paragraph, through a typical captatio benevo-
lentiae move, he claims that only the piety towards the fatherland, the
merit of the works edited and his own zeal made him endure the lack of
glory and tediousness implied in editing others’ works.
The corpus selected for inclusion in the first three volumes can be tabu-
lated as follows:6

Correia da Serra goes on to present the main persons responsible for the first
volume and a forthcoming volume in the sixth paragraph; he then gives examples of
contributions towards his stated goal: a forthcoming volume with the Arabic docu-
ments of the Royal Archive, edited by Fr. Joaõ de Souza; a work by the historian
Diogo do Couto, Observações sobre as principaes cauzas da decadência dos Portuguezes na Azia,
escritas em forma de Dialogo, com o Titulo de Soldado Pratico, to be published by Mr. António
Caetano do Amaral.
See the reference to extant copies of the Portuguese texts of the Colecção in Askins
et al., n.d.: Rui de Pina, Crónica de D. Duarte, Texid 1052; Rui de Pina, Crónica de D.
Afonso V, Texid 1149; Rui de Pina, Crónica de D. João II, Texid 1150; Rui de Pina,
Crónica de D. João II, Texid 1150; Gomes Eanes de Zurara, Crónica do Conde D. Pedro de
Meneses, Texid 1058; Gomes Eanes de Zurara, Crónica do Conde D. Duarte de Meneses,
Texid 1053; Livro Vermelho de D. Afonso V, Texid 9483; Livro Antigo das Posses da Casa da
Suplicação, Texid 9442.
158 João Dionísio

vol. 1 Preface
De Bello Septensi or Livro da Guerra de Ceuta, by Mateus
de Pisano
Crónica de D. Duarte, by Rui de Pina
Crónica de D. Afonso V, by Rui de Pina
vol. 2 Crónica de D. João II, by Rui de Pina
Crónica do Conde D. Pedro de Menezes, by Gomes Eanes
de Zurara (but ascribed here to Rui de Pina)
vol. 3 Crónica do Conde D. Duarte de Menezes, by Gomes Eanes
de Zurara
Livro Vermelho de D. Afonso V
Fragmentos de Legislação escritos no Livro chamado Antigo
das Posses da Casa da Suplicação

If after the earthquake the reconstruction of the fragile medieval struc-

tures of downtown Lisbon gave birth to new quarters framed in straight
lines, the casting of these texts suggests Correia da Serra was deliberately
setting out to transmit a new idea of the Portuguese Middle Ages. The
texts or groups of texts included in the Colecção belong to the late medi-
eval period; this is remarkable in that, according to the doctrine summa-
rised in the Preface, the remnants of the late Middle Ages would enable
the reader to better understand the Golden period of Portuguese discov-
eries. The texts selected are either chronicles or jurisprudential docu-
ments. The noteworthy work that opens the series, although not consid-
ered a fundamental text, but simply a ‘curious monument of our History’
(Serra 1790, 3), perfectly agrees with Correia da Serra’s doctrine regard-
ing internationalisation. It is neither written by a Portuguese author, nor
written in the Portuguese language. Furthermore, in the eulogy of King
Afonso V, contained in chapter 1 of Crónica do Conde D. Pedro de Meneses,
one learns that King Afonso V had foreign political marketing in mind
when he commissioned Matteo Pisano with the Latin writing of De Bello
não soomente se comtemtou de hos fazer escrever ē nosso propio vulgar
portugues, mas aymda os fez traduzir aa llymgoa llatina, porque nõ
soomemte os seus naturais ouvessem conheçimemto e saber das gramdes
cavalarias daquelle comde e dos outros que com elle comcorrerão, mas que

aymda fossem manyfestos a todo conheçimemto de toda a nobreza da

cristamdade, per mestre Matheus de Pisano (…)7
How did Correia da Serra proceed editorially? With one exception,8 each
edited text is preceded by a short introduction that reviews the manu-
scripts taken into consideration, biographical data, an identification of
the author’s works, a presentation of the work and of the author’s style.
Textual criticism proper plays a role in the collection of manuscripts, the
comparison of readings and the annotation.
As far as collecting material is concerned, the strategy followed by
Correia da Serra is relatively plain: a good part of the texts were thought
to be transmitted in single copies, which made the editor content himself
with the codex unicus he had at hand.9 When a text reached the editor
through more than one copy, he proceeded on the basis both of profes-
sional background and of location. Thus with Rui de Pina’s Crónica de D.
Duarte, a manuscript of which existed in the Royal Archive, a circum-
stance that would automatically prove its status as a sound basis for the
edition, since Rui de Pina was a royal chronicler; in Correia da Serra’s
phrasing: ‘since it is kept at the Royal Archive it is useless to say anything
about its authenticity’ (Serra 1790, 66). But in apparent contradiction, the
following texts, Crónica de D. Afonso V and Crónica de D. João II, again
royal chronicles, again by Rui de Pina, again transmitted by a manuscript
kept at the Royal Archive, were edited with the help of another copy,
then the property of the Benedictine monks.
The other two chronicles included in the Colecção were written by
Gomes Eanes de Zurara. The first, about the life of the nobleman D.
Pedro de Meneses, had the text established, in a typical recentiores deteriores

Zurara 1997, 175-176: ‘not only did he [Afonso V] content himself by having
them written in our own current Portuguese, but ordered their translation into the
Latin language, so that not only their naturals had cognizance and knowledge of the
great chivalric feats of that Count and of the others who took part in them with him,
but also in order to make them manifest to the knowledge of the noblety of Christian-
ity, by Master Matheus de Pisano’.
There is no separate introduction to Rui de Pina’s Crónica de D. João II, this being
subsumed in the editor’s preface to the Crónica do Conde D. Duarte.
Américo da Costa Ramalho writes that the manuscript that served for Correia da
Serra’s edition of De Bello Septensi, which is not necessarily a codex unicus, belonged to D.
Manuel II’s library, in Vila Viçosa (Ramalho 1989-90, 214). In Geraldes Freire’s view,
Ramalho is right in posing the hypothesis of the existence of other manuscripts, for,
according to his observation, the copy that served for Correia’s work is not the one
kept in Vila Viçosa (Freire 1989-90, 217).
160 João Dionísio

decision, by means of the most ancient of the few manuscripts known to

Correia da Serra, owned by a member of the Academy of Sciences (Serra
1792: 211). As to the second one, a biography of D. Duarte de Meneses,
the basis was an even rarer manuscript (for there were fewer copies
extant) which was the property of another member of the Academy.
Correia da Serra is aware of the shortcomings of this copy when he
mentions its many lacunae, impossible to resolve without the aid of other
uncorrupt copies, unknown to him.
The last two groups of texts edited in the Colecção are legal writings.
The first group was taken from Livro Vermelho do Senhor D. Afonso V,
which was edited, in the absence of the lost original, according to an
imperfect copy ordered by King John III. The second group was taken
from a single manuscript, showing several flaws, of the Livro das Posses da
Casa da Suplicação.
In view of what this tells us concerning Correia da Serra’s policy in
selecting the copies on which he based his edition, it is no surprise to see
the lack of comparative moves or at the absence of explanation concern-
ing the comparison of testimonia. Regarding Rui de Pina’s Crónica de D.
Afonso V and Crónica de D. João II, one finds no trace of the variants
detected in the comparison between the Royal Archive manuscript and
the Benedictine copy. Besides, there is no information as to the criteria
that led the editor to prefer a specific variant reading instead of an-
Correia da Serra’s annotation has mainly to do with lacunae and
emendation. He locates the passages where the corruptions are, but
neither mentions their nature, nor identifies precisely what lies behind
them. The relatively strong visibility given to the editorial action is due to
the profile of the scribe: careful in calligraphy, far from competent in
Latin. Furthermore, some observations occasionally emerge to explain
the blanks and eventually to correct the text ope ingenii (Crónica de D.
Duarte de Meneses, p.311; Fragmentos legais, p. 578, 598, 603, 609, 612).
Correia da Serra’s faltering attitude towards emendation is witnessed
by his last words in the series – not very famous but still revealing. They

As a matter of detail: the editor confesses that he did not have the opportunity to
compare the papal bull as quoted within the edited text with its original (1793, 594-
595). However, he had recourse to Ordenações Afonsinas in order to detect an alleged
error in another text (1793, 605).

appear at the end of volume 3, on p. 617 (not numbered), and accom-

pany a list of Errata. First one reads the introductory note:
Some other words of the Crónica do Conde D. Duarte could have been cor-
rected, which we did not, both because they are written in a precious manu-
script, as we wrote in Volume II of this collection [p. 211], and because we
leave to the intelligent [entendido] reader its correction.
The reader might be confused by the unsystematic criterion that made
the editor emend some words and leave others uncorrected. Yet the
uncorrected words are then listed, for immediately after his disclaimer
Correia da Serra adds: ‘And one might correct’, followed by a list of
possible mistakes in the so-called precious manuscript. By now the pa-
tient reader would think that the list he is accessing is a thorough one.
Yet, the list is concluded by the tranquil expression ‘And thus some oth-
ers’. And this time these remaining alleged mistakes are not presented.

The reception of Correia da Serra’s work was generally enthusiastic.
Silvestre Ribeiro, for instance, considered that volume I was preceded by
an excellent introduction and that the Academy made the right choice
when it commissioned Correia da Serra with the research work and
selection of the texts to be included in the project (Ribeiro 1872,
293-294). According to the hyperbolic description given by the online
Classic Encyclopedia, Correia da Serra’s Colecção is ‘an invaluable selec-
tion of documents, exceedingly well edited’. A curious dissonant in the
generally benevolent chorus of contemporary opinion is the criticism of
Father Francisco José da Serra Xavier, kept in manuscript (now in
Brazil). It had scarcely any impact, for it was never published and, be-
sides, it has been passed over in silence by the Academy’s historians.
One of these, rather than dealing with the nature of the criticism, in-
dulges in presenting the genealogy of the critic: born in the parish of São
Paulo, borough of Penalva; married to Maria Luisa and moved to Lis-
bon, where he established himself as a grocer. The grocery was destroyed
by the earthquake. He had two children. When he was about to take
orders, he declared that his grandmother (on his mother’s side) was
nicknamed ‘Black’ (Negra) because she was fed by a black goat. And so
forth (See Carvalho 1948, 94).
What strikes us most in both the appraisal and the report of the criti-
cism is that nothing, absolutely nothing, is said about the editorial theory
162 João Dionísio

and performance of the series. Thus, Correia da Serra was right when he
stated that editing did not bring glory, but it did not bring disrepute
either. To bring either glory or opprobrium, it had to be noticed as such.
In the obscure history of Portuguese scholarly editing prior to the
nineteenth century, Correia da Serra’s project is as good as non-existent.
This is not his fault, however, for in handbooks on textual criticism in
Portugal nothing seems to have deserved observation in this field before
1800. In a way, Correia da Serra’s project clearly represents this nothing-
ness, which has to do with the ‘absence of a previous definition of the
fields of intervention of the editor’ (Brocardo 1997: 121). An absence
that is manifested in different procedures not made explicit by our editor:
abbreviation development; word separation; introduction of capital let-
ters; modernization of punctuation; correction (although rare) through
addition of words; graphic alteration with and without phonetic implica-
tions. All in all, as Teresa Brocardo says, his edition seems akin to a hand
copy, that frequently swings to and fro between fidelity and innovation,
clearly distant from scholarly editing.11
On another ground, the use made of the Colecção was paradoxical. Rui
de Pina, the best-represented author in the series, is an idiosyncratic
choice by Correia da Serra, at odds with the relative lack of importance
with which this historian is credited today (but also already in the nine-
teenth century). In contrast, the most canonic medieval chronicler,
Fernão Lopes, is ignored in these first three volumes and included only
in the fourth, in which Correia da Serra had no hand. Thus, the series
posits a sort of canon that was to be overtaken by later developments.
The Colecção failed to meet one of the most important prerequisites of
canonicity: the fact that ‘over successive generations (…) readers con-
tinue to affirm a judgement of greatness, almost as though each genera-
tion actually judged anew the quality of the work.’ (Guillory 1995, 236).
Yet there are contradictions even here. For one thing, texts edited in
the Colecção were read over successive generations in school anthologies
and in semi-deluxe books; still, this was a form of recycling rather than

One should say on Correia da Serra’s behalf that the most recent edition of
Crónica de D. Pedro de Meneses, a fine piece of scholarship, depends on the very same
manuscript he selected, which undoubtedly gives him some credit (Brocardo 1997, 23
and 111). The manuscript is now in Coimbra, Biblioteca Geral da Universidade de
Coimbra, ms. 439. Description by Brocardo 1997, 28-33. For a description of Correia
da Serra’s editorial work concerning Crónica de D. Pedro de Meneses, see Brocardo 1997,

involve a result of judgement or appreciation. For instance, in José P.

Tavares’ Selecta de Textos Arcaicos e Medievais, published in 1923, one finds
Rui de Pina’s Crónica de D. Duarte and Crónica de D. Afonso, explicitly
referenced to Correia da Serra’s work as the source text. The same thing
happens in the prestigious anthology organized by Corrêa de Oliveira
and Saavedra Machado. Again, in a series entitled ‘Treasures of Litera-
ture and History’, a volume appeared in 1977 including all of Rui de
Pina’s chronicles, with the text of Crónica de D. Duarte, Crónica de D.
Afonso and Crónica de D. João II corresponding literally to Correia da
Serra’s text, and the introductions reproducing those of Correia da Serra
(although this is only obliquely acknowledged by M. Lopes de Almeida,
who introduces the book).12 This leaves us to a curious contradiction
between successive reprinting and lack of judgement-based canonicity.
We cannot know what would have happened to the fourth and fifth
volumes of the Colecção, had Correia da Serra stayed in Portugal. But he
had to leave his country with the French naturalist Broussonnet
(1761-1807), who had fled France in the persecution of the Girondins.
Once the Portuguese government realised that Broussonnet was hiding
in the Royal Academy they intervened, and both Correia da Serra and his
French colleague decided to escape (Ribeiro 1872: 38-39). Our editor
moved to England, then to France and to the United States, where his
intelligence and vast knowledge gave birth to his Socratic epithet. In
France, Correia da Serra wrote the article ‘Sur l’état des sciences et des
lettres parmi les Portugais’ (1804), maintaining in it that the most recent
stage in the political and cultural evolution of Portugal, that is, the period
during which he lived, was one of recovery in both the scientific and
literary branches of knowledge. This, however, did not involve editorial
scholarship. Later on, when in the United States he was hyperbolically
labelled a father of the nation, this had nothing to do with his experience
as an editor. After all, although Correia da Serra was a prestigious natu-
ralist, and botanist in particular, deserving admiration in the growing
European network of natural sciences, at the same time he was ignorant
of works by J.-B. Morel, Rühnken, Bentley, Giulio Pontedera – who was

E.g. Tavares 1923, 211-222; Oliveira and Machado 1973, 642-46; Pina 1977, 479-
1033. On page XXIII of Lopes de Almeida’s introduction to the latter book he writes:
‘As to the reliability of the texts, we ask permission to declare them correct’.
164 João Dionísio

also a botanist13 – Wettstein, Bengel, as well as those by others who

contributed to scholarly editing as a growing autonomous field. 14
It is true that I am not doing Correia da Serra justice by approaching
his editorial work in a somewhat a-historical way; that is, ignoring what
was possible for his age and what was not (Gadamer 2004: 15). Actually,
the first major step in synchronising Portuguese editorial practice regard-
ing historical texts with similar programmes in other countries would
occur only several decades later with Portugaliae Monumenta Historica, a
new series directed by Alexandre Herculano. Again published by the
Lisbon Academy of Sciences, it commenced in 1856 and went on until
the end of the century, lossely modelled on the Monumenta Germaniae
Historica. It was divided into three sections taken after the structure of
the German series; of the five sections comprehended in the Monumenta
Germaniae Historica (Antiquitates, Diplomata, Epistolae, Leges and Scrip-
tores), the Portugaliae Monumenta Historica took over ‘Scriptores’, ‘Leges’
(called ‘Leges et Consuetudines’) and ‘Diplomata’ (named ‘Diplomata et
Chartae’).15 It is true that in the general bilingual (Portuguese and Latin)
preface, Alexandre Herculano and Mendes Leal re-use one item of
Correia da Serra’s introduction by mentioning that this new series will
deal with unknown documents that are bound to modify current opinion,
to correct some views and to confirm others. But, immediately following,
new issues appear: the desire to emulate other similar collections pub-
lished in other countries (Germany, France, England, Italy and else-
where); the decision to produce an edition in parallel versions when
authentic manuscripts show important and numerous differences
vis-à-vis other authentic manuscripts; the presentation of the transcrip-
tion strategy against the backdrop of the procedures carried out by Euro-
pean editors and paleographers (Mabillon, Achery, Baluzio and Muratori
are mentioned) (Herculano and Leal 1856).

See Gadamer 2004, 182: ‘(...) there is a close correspondence between philology
and natural science in their early visions of themselves. That has two implications. On
the one hand, “natural” scientific procedure is supposed to apply to one’s approach to
scriptural tradition as well, and is supported by the historical method. But on the other
hand, just as naturalness in the art of philology means understanding from a context,
so naturalness in the investigation of nature means deciphering the “book of nature”.
To this extent scientific method is based on the model of philology.’
On textual scholars before Lachmann, see Timpanaro 1990.
A new section, ‘Inquisitiones’, was created (1888-97) after Herculano’s death.

Leerssen’s appealing use of the concept of network as a means of

explaining romantic nationalism in Europe is helpful to pinpoint one of
the main differences between Correia da Serra’s Colecção and Herculano’s
series. The idea of ‘authors influencing other authors’ is shaped accord-
ing to the influencing individuals. Correia da Serra, for whom editing is
similar to a scribal act, belongs first and foremost to the naturalist net-
work; Herculano, who practises editing as a scholar, belongs to the litera-
ture network (in the sense given by Leerssen 2006, 569 to the field of
literature). With reference to the notion of network I would like to brief-
ly consider two practises relating to the awareness of diversity. As to the
awareness of diversity regarding the comparison between copies, the
Colecção generally silences variants, while Portugaliae Monumenta Historica
gives them voice. In other words, Correia da Serra tends to produce a
unified, self-contained text; Herculano, when it seems fit to him, gives
more than one version of the same text, thus transmitting the idea that
the reader should have access to the group, otherwise obtaining a muti-
lated representation of textual reality. But as to another aspect of this
awareness of diversity, i.e., critical reception or the comparison between
the edition and its sources, there is no sharp difference between the
Colecção and Portugaliae Monumenta Historica. Unlike what happens in Ger-
many, as Thomas Bein has made clear through the examples of Lach-
mann’s and Pfeiffer’s editions of Walther von der Vogelweide’s Preislied
(cf. his essay in this volume), there was no tradition in nineteenth-century
Portugal of reviewing editions in editorial terms. Consequently there was
no tradition of re-editing the same texts in a scholarly way.
One may explain this situation from the geographically peripheral
position of Portugal, which naturally causes it to be dominated by slow
time curves,16 and one may compensatingly add that Portugal is today the
only country that has chosen to celebrate its national holiday on the
feastday of its foremost canonical writer, Camões (1524?-1580). I think,
however, that this vivid example of the instrumentalisation of the literary
heritage in nation-building does not occur as a result of scholarly editing,
but rather regardless of it. To some extent, the combination of nation
building and scholarly editing in Portugal is still, even as we speak, a
matter of wishful thinking.

See Siegfried Kracauer’s theory against the uniform flow of time as used by Hans
Robert Jauss’ thesis 6 (Jauss 1982, 36-39).
166 João Dionísio

Askins, Arthur L-F., Harvey L. Sharrer, Aida Fernanda Dias, and Martha E.
Schaffer. BITAGAP (Bibliografia de Textos Antigos Galegos e Portu-
Bourdon, Léon. 1975. José Corrêa da Serra. Ambassadeur du Royaume-Uni de Portugal
et Brésil a Washington 1816-1820. Paris: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian –
Centro Cultural Português.
Brocardo, Maria Teresa. 1997. Introdução. In Crónica do Conde D. Pedro de
Meneses, ed. Gomes Eanes de Zurara. Lisboa: Fundação Calouste Gulben-
kian – JNICT.
Caeiro, Francisco da Gama. 1980. Livros e livreiros franceses em Lisboa, nos fins de
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EUROPEAN STUDIES 26 (2008): 169-183



Magí Sunyer

In the period 1780-1840 there were very few reimpressions of medi-
eval Catalan texts and there was considerable confusion about the
value of the literary past. However, at the end of the eighteenth cen-
tury, a modern process of publishing medieval documentation was
instigated, largely thanks to Antoni de Capmany, that was to have an
extraordinary impact on the activity of men of letters, historians and
scholars in the following century. The introduction of Romanticism
by the review El Europeo (1823-24) prompted an interest in medieval
Catalan history in all sorts of literary and historical genres. In the
1830s philological projects were undertaken such as the dictionary of
writers by Josep Torres Amat and some collections of texts by ancient
writers, and the first steps were taken towards the accurate editing of
medieval texts. By the end of this period, Joaquim Rubió i Ors, im-
bued with this spirit, was advocating the use of the Catalan language
for cultured literature.

Joaquim Rubió i Ors decided to bring the poetical campaign that had
been printed in the Diario de Barcelona in 1839 and 1840 to its culmination
by publishing Lo Gayter del Llobregat (‘The Piper of the Llobregat’). In ex-
plaining his decision, he repeatedly stated, modestly, that he did not
deserve to be considered a troubadour, merely a piper; and among other
patriotic arguments he wrote:
seria molt convenient traure ses glòries passades a la memòria del poble que
treballa i s’afanya per sa glòria venidera, i que alguns records de lo que
fórem podrien contribuir no poc a lo que tal vegada havem de ser.
170 Magí Sunyer

To transmit these memories,

ha conegut que no devia fer sinó obrir lo llibre de nostra història en ses
pàginas més brillants i poètiques; i sentar-se en les verdoses i venerables
ruïnes de l’antic monument que presencià los heroics fets que en aquella se
He then specified the historical and literary glories to which he referred
and demanded that they be retrieved in Catalan and not in Spanish:
¿No tenim una co¹lecció de cròniques tan abundant i variada com la que
puga posseir qualsevol altre poble, i una galeria immensa de trobadors, pares
de la poesia vulgar moderna?.1
The author of this key text in twentieth-century Catalan literary history,
Rubió i Ors, was a member of the group of intellectuals around the
scholarly authority of Manuel Milà i Fontanals; more than his friends, he
had confidence in the potential of the Catalan language. In this same
prologue, he somewhat prematurely stated that he believed his poetry
campaign to have been a failure because of its lack of followers. How-
ever, it did inspire younger writers such as Antoni de Bofarull and Mar-
ian Aguiló to take up the pen, albeit for the moment only to write poetry.
Subsequently they played decisive roles in the re-publication and popu-
larisation of medieval literary and historical Catalan texts. His concern
for language was by no means fortuitous. The Catalan Countries were
still largely monolingual2 but, after centuries of extremely limited use of
Catalan as a means of cultured expression, the first wave of liberal
modernity had the effect of reducing Catalan to the category of a patois
and of restricting its ambit to colloquial situations. At the beginning of
the period under consideration here, a modern intellectual who played a
fundamental role in the evaluation of the medieval past, Antoni de Cap-

Joaquim Rubió i Ors, prologue to Lo gaiter del Llobregat, in Miracle 1960, 278-80:
‘[the piper believes] that past glories should be transmitted to the memory of the
people who work and strive for future glories, and that the reminiscence of what we
once were may contribute to no small extent to what perhaps we should be.’ ‘one need
do no more than open our history book at its most brilliant pages; and sit among the
green and venerable ruins of the ancient monument that witnessed the heroic deeds
described therein.’ ‘Do we not have as abundant and varied a collection of chronicles
as any other people, and an immense gallery of troubadours, fathers to modern vulgar
Anguera 1997 provides considerable data about the generalized, practically exclu-
sive, use of Catalan as the colloquial language.

many, exhumed a speech by king Martin the Humane and decided to

translate it into Spanish. To justify this decision, he wrote a death certifi-
cate of the Catalan language, stating that it could no longer be used for
cultural functions.
Therefore, recognising medieval texts as ‘classics’ of Catalan literature
and history had a twofold meaning. First, these texts established the
notion that Catalonia had a tradition of its own; second, this tradition
showed that the Catalan language could be used in all registers; that is to
say, like metropolitan languages, with (unlike Catalan) an active state
apparatus behind them for support and propagation.

It should not be forgotten that Neoclassicism had little impact on the
part of the Catalan language domain subjugated by the Spanish crown at
the beginning of the eighteenth century, after the defeat in the War of
Succession. Northern Catalonia, under French government, and Minorca,
a British colony throughout much of the century, were unaffected; it was
in these territories that the Greek and Latin classics were reflected in
tragedies like Joan Ramis’s Lucrècia, set in Roman antiquity, and the 1808
translation of Virgil’s Bucolics by Antoni Febrer i Cardona. However, as
Joan Fuster (1976, 150-1) points out with regard to Valencia, we must
take into account the fascination that some eighteenth-century intellectu-
als felt for medieval authors. There, several works from ancient Catalan
literature were salvaged by Gregori Maians; also, Jaume Roig’s Espill
(Mirror) was published by Carles Ros in 1735, and a project was con-
ceived to publish a series of classics (not exclusively Valencian) by Lluís
Galiana in 1763. Throughout the eighteenth century, it was quite com-
mon for language apologias (for instance, those by Agustí Eura and by
Josep Ullastre) to refer to better times when both country and language
had full expression (cf. Feliu et al. 1992).
Josep Fontana points out that 1780 was the year in which the Board
of Trade and two historians, Jaume Caresmar and Antoni de Capmany,
established an economic, historic and philological programme that pre-
sented Catalonia’s specific needs to the State. Their approach focused on
Catalan history and literature as manifestations of a separate individual-
ity, which was also expressed in economic issues. The programme also
involved renouncing the Catalan language:
172 Magí Sunyer

Allò que els interessava no era la literatura catalana per ella mateixa, sinó
com a testimoni d’una cultura pròpia, la sola existència de la qual donava
suport a la imatge diferenciada de Catalunya que pretenien exposar.3
Integral parts of the programme were Memorias históricas sobre la marina,
comercio y artes de la antigua ciudad de Barcelona, published in 1779 by Antoni
de Capmany,4 and the plan to publish a dictionary of Catalan writers,
initiated by Jaume Caresmar and completed by Fèlix Torres Amat de-
cades later. Jordi Rubió i Balaguer (1986, 3: 82) points out that Jaume
Caresmar and his followers are fundamental to the process that was to
lead from the antiquarian study of history to archival and diplomatic
research, because it was based on a movement that was active through-
out Europe. Jordi Rubió himself stressed the importance of these initia-
Suggestions llançades per primer cop pels historiadors donaren estructura a
ideologies i programes de restauració que tingueren després vigència en la
Renaixença, la qual s’ha d’estudiar en funció del segle XVIII.5
Even so, let me stress once again that this movement rejected what was
to become the distinguishing feature par excellence of the Catalans: their
The effect of these Enlightenment activities was twofold. On the one
hand, they drew attention to Catalan history and encouraged ancient
documents of historical and literary interest to be exhumed; on the other,
with the prestige of modernity, they pushed culturally ambitious dis-
course towards the use of Spanish. The later process that we know as
Renaixença, which depends precisely on pride in former glories, played a
vital role in the progress of scholarly investigation while striving to recu-
perate Catalan as a language appropriate for all uses. This process was

Fontana 1993, 120-1: ‘What they were interested in was not Catalan literature in
itself, but Catalan literature as proof of a culture, the mere existence of which gave
support to the image of a distinct Catalonia that they were trying to present.’
Fontana 1993, 119, considers this to be the greatest work of eighteenth-century
Catalan culture. Previously, Capmany had published Antiguos tratados de paces y alianzas
entre algunos reyes de Aragon y diferentes principes infieles de Asia y Africa, desde el siglo XII al
XV; his penchant for Spanish (over against Catalan) literature is manifested in his
Teatro histórico crítico de la elocuencia española, an anthology of Spanish literature from the
early romances to the present, published in 1786.
Rubió 1986, 83: ‘Suggestions first made by historians gave structure to ideologies
and restoration programmes that were subsequently to be valid during the Renaixença,
which has to be studied in the context of the eighteenth century.’

eventually to merge with political Catalanism. As Jordi Rubió puts it:

‘Catalunya tanmateix va saber llegir i entendre la lliçó i¹luminadora del
seu passat que es desprenia dels documents publicats en les Memorias’.6
If we focus on the publication of medieval documents, we must again
mention, first and foremost, Antoni de Capmany. In 1879 he published,
as part of the aforementioned Memorias, a ‘diplomatic collection of the
instruments that justify the present memoirs’ presenting 488 documents
– not, to be sure, literary texts, but privileges, letters, regulations, decrees,
treaties, sentences, concessions, etc. These texts testified to the brilliance
of Catalonia’s medieval past and at the same time (although this was not
the editor’s intention) to the splendour of the Catalan language. Two
years later Capmany published a document that was fundamental in
raising the awareness of the importance of medieval Catalonia: the ‘Book
of the Consulate of the Sea or Code of maritime customs in Barcelona’,
generally known as the ‘Book of the Consulate’. This medieval Catalan
code of maritime customs was to prove highly influential in the follow-
ing century.
By the end of the eighteenth century various re-editions of Catalan
classics had appeared, such as Jaume Febrer’s Trobes, which were then
thought to be medieval. They were first published in the periodical Diario
de Valencia between 1791 and 1795, and then in book form in 1796.
There were also some learned controversies about the classics, which
required knowledge and study,7 and MS catalogues or projects for cata-
loguing Catalan writers.8 But the fact remains that one hundred years
later, in 1893, Alfred Morel Fatio still deplored the difficultity of writing
a true history of Catalan letters since the texts were unknown or unavail-
able (Aramon i Serra 1997, 435). If this was the situation at the end of
the nineteenth century (when considerable trouble had been taken to
make up for the shortcomings), things were even worse in the century’s

Ibid., 95: ‘Catalonia, however, knew how to read and understand the
Enlightenment lesson of her past revealed in the documents published in the Mem-
One of these was between Josep Villarroya (Coleccion de cartas histórico-críticas en que
se convence que el Rey D. Jayme I de Aragon no fue el verdadero autor de la Crónica ó comentarios
que corren a su nombre, 1800) and a rejoinder ‘Sobre la Crónica del Rey Don Jayme I de
Aragon’ (published in Variedades de Ciencias, Literatura y Artes). Cf. Marcet & Solà 1998.
It was at this time that the dictionaries by Just Pastor Fuster and Fèlix Torres
Amat were planned; in June 1795 Antoni Elies i Robert read to the Barcelona Royal
Academy of Arts on a ‘Catálogo de las obras que se han escrito en lengua catalana
desde el reynado de Dn. Jayme el Conquistador’; cf. Marcet & Solà 1998.
174 Magí Sunyer

early decades. Of course, there were the constant re-editions of Anselm

Turmeda’s Llibre de bons amonestaments (‘The book of good admonitions’),
but its usage was restricted to primary schools as an entry-level text
book, and had no connection with any rediscovery or revival of the
medieval classics.
Between 1780-1833, and with the few exceptions I have mentioned,
readers interested in the medieval classics had to go to libraries that
preserved old editions and manuscripts, or to bookshops specialising in
rarities.9 Or they had to make do with a few short anthologies, which
offered little more than samples. The catalogue of works written in Cata-
lan, published as an appendix to the second edition of Josep Pau Ballot’s
Gramàtica i apologia de la llengua catalana (‘Grammar and apologia of the
Catalan language’), is extremely short and reproduces very few frag-
ments. In 1824, Jaubert de Paçà’s Recherches sur la langue catalane (published
in Paris) contained a selection of texts that, according to Lola Badia,
fa la impressió que s’alimenta fonamentalment de la tradició que treballosa-
ment ha sobreviscut al llarg de l’anomenada Decadència; en seria una prova
el paper destacadíssim que assigna a Francesc Vicenç Garcia.10
A prevailing lack of historical knowledge is evinced in such symptomatic
slips as the belief that Ausiàs Marc predated Petrarch; also, the Biblioteca
valenciana (‘Valencian Library’, the dictionary of authors compiled by Just
Pastor Fuster mentioned in note 9, and published in two volumes in
1827 and 1830) opens with Vicent Ximeno, an eighteenth-century au-
thor. The choice of texts or fragments is haphazard: the volumes contain
entire compositions from minor writers but, despite all the praise lav-
ished on him, only two of Ausiàs Marc’s verses.
The mythification of the medieval past had literary repercussions;
witness some fragments of an unfinished but well-known poem by
Antoni Puigblanch, usually known as Les comunitats de Castella (‘The com-
munities of Castile’). Puigblanch lived in exile in London during the
tyrannical periods when Fernando VII reigned (1814-20, 1823-33); his

Simbor 1980, 84-85 reproduces an advertisement by the bookseller Just Pastor
Fuster (who was subsequently to publish a dictionary of Valencian authors) in the
Diario de Valencia offering ‘por raros’ Jaume Roig’s Llibre de les dones, and the poems
later known as the Cançoner Satíric Valencià (‘The satirical Valencian anthology’).
Badia 1994, 10: ‘is apparently based on the tradition that survived (...) throughout
the so-called Decadence; proof of this is the leading role given to Francesc Vicenç

poem is a radical diatribe against the monarch and an exaltation of lib-

erty. He develops the theme of the excellence of the language, and also
vindicates it. He refers to Catalan (or, as it was often called at the time,
‘Limousin’) in the following terms:
Llenguatge és tal, aquest, que del mateix usaren,
del francès Carlo Magno los cortesans complots,
i els destres catalans amb ell se gloriaren
que del Jònic solcant, i de l’Egeu, los flots,
duenyos foren d’Atenes
En ell també escrigueren los gaios trobadors
amb noble pensament i amb més noble porfia.11
Regardless of obvious historical and philological errors (e.g. the mistaken
assumption that Charlemagne spoke Catalan, or the prevalent conflation
between Catalan and Limousin) the poem interestingly invokes, precisely,
medieval and historicist claims to prestige: the expedition to Greece and
the troubadours. The first of these is the most constant and uninter-
rupted mythical trope used by Catalans into the nineteenth century. We
should not be surprised that Puigblanch resorts to it, particularly if we
remember that both Antoni de Capmany in his ‘Memoirs’ and the Book
of the Consulate of the Sea had revived interested in the subject.
The troubadour reference is of a different nature. Between 1816 and
1821, François Raynouard had published in Paris the six volumes of the
Choix des poésies originales des troubadours.12 As a philologist, Puigblanch may
have been familiar with the work. In any case, the element of trouba-
dourism was to become a decisive factor in romantic Catalan medieval-
ism and influenced Catalan literature throughout the nineteenth century,
and even (with some ups and downs) right up to the present day.13 These
elements make Puigblanch’s poetry more significant that it might seem
for an unfinished poem that remained unpublished for years. In fact, one
party among the Renaixença revivalists would later claim that
Puigblanch’s poem, rather than Aribau’s ‘La Pàtria’, was the movement’s

Quoted from Molas 1968, 108-9: ‘Such a noble language, spoken by/ Charle-
magne’s conspiring courtiers/ And the able Catalans / Who sailed the Ionian and
Aegean Seas / To become the masters of Athens. [...] It was also the language spoken
by the troubadours / To show noble thoughts and even nobler tenacity.’
Cf. also Philippe Martel’s contribution to the present volume.
See Rubió 1986, 407-17. For Catalan-Occitanian political links after this period,
see Martel 1992.
176 Magí Sunyer

true precursor. Still, the appearance of ‘La Pàtria’ in the newspaper El

Vapor, 1833, marks a caesura.

1833-1841: ‘Taking Down From the Sacred Wall the Forefathers’ Lyre’
Romanticism entered Catalonia by means of the journal El Europeo (‘The
European’, 1823-24), which was directed by Bonaventura Carles Aribau
and Ramon López Soler, and really took off after 1833, the year of the
death of Fernando VII and the return of the anti-absolutist exiles. Aribau
and López Soler showed no interest in promoting medieval Catalan
classics; significantly, the Library of Spanish Authors which Aribau di-
rected from 1846 did not publish a single Catalan author either in the
original or in translation. The literary and philological orientation of
these authors was Spanish. López Soler made just one exception to this
(he wrote a single verse in Catalan); but among Aribau’s several minor
texts, one that was to prove to be fundamental to the history of Catalan
letters, ‘La Pàtria’.
It has been said that some passages from Aribau’s poem are indebted
to Puigblanch. However, it was of much greater literary quality and
managed to synthesize the main features of what would become domi-
nant in the re-emergence of Catalan literature. In his praise of the lan-
guage, which he also calls ‘Limousin’, the link with childhood and senti-
ment plays a major role; but Aribau also refers to past medieval glory,
not as explicitly as Puigblanch, but leaving no room for doubt:
Plau-me encara parlar la llengua d’aquells savis,
que ompliren l’univers de llurs costums e lleis,
la llengua d’aquells forts que acataren los reis,
defengueren llurs drets, venjaren llurs agravis.14
He mentions warriors and wise men (i.e., writers), using, in short, the
same characterization as Puigblanch, without making it clear to which
heroic deed or which wise men he is referring. Even so, he relates the
language to ‘the song of the troubadour’, and a little later appear the lines
that I quote by way of motto to this section of my article: ‘ni cull del mur
sagrat la lira dels seus avis’. Thus, like Puigblanch, Aribau uses the
well-known references to seafaring expansion and the troubadours.

Molas1974, 19-20: ‘It still pleases me to speak the language of those wise men, /
who filled the universe with their customs and laws, / the language of the strong who
obeyed the kings, / defended their rights and avenged their wrongs.’

Though Aribau was not interested in the advancement of Catalan as a

cultural vehicle, his poetry was to mark Catalan cultural history like no
Manuel Jorba has stated that the importance of Romanticism lies in
the publishing of medieval texts:
Gràcies principalment a l’ambició romàntica de presentar la individualitat
nacional en la fase de la seva presa de consciència o en la seva culminació, a
les aportacions del comparatisme i, en alguns casos, a procediments positi-
vistes, fou possible el descobriment i progressiva assumpció dels propis
clàssics i el projecte d’edició i l’estudi del fons literari, especialment del
popular i el medieval.15
In 1835, a scheme was launched to publish in installments a ‘Treasury of
the Catalan Language’, running to a total of 2560 pages and including
editions of Catalan classics (Anguera 2000, 134n). In 1836 two works
were published that were to have an important effect on nineteenth-
century historiography and literature. The first was Los condes de Barcelona
vindicados (‘The revenge of the Counts of Barcelona’) by Pròsper de
Bofarull, the first modern history of medieval Catalonia based on the
new archiving research approach. The second was Memorias para ayudar a
formar un diccionario crítico de los escritores catalanes y dar alguna idea de la
antigua y moderna literatura de Cataluña (‘Notes to help draw up a critical
dictionary of Catalan writers and give some idea of the ancient and mod-
ern literature of Catalonia’), by Fèlix Torres i Amat. In 1847, Pròsper de
Bofarull was to begin publishing his Colección de documentos inéditos del
Archivo General de la Corona de Aragón (‘Collection of unpublished docu-
ments from the General Archive of the Aragon Crown’). These docu-
ments were essential to understanding Catalan history and contained
some literary texts. They had a decisive influence on the editor’s nephew
Antoni de Bofarull, a historian, man of letters and main proponent of the
historicist Renaixença. Torres i Amat’s Memorias, the realization of a pro-
ject that had begun at the end of the previous century, provided a basis
for understanding Catalan literature.

Manuel Jorba, ‘La Renaixença’, in Molas 1986, 7: 17: ‘Largely owing to the
romantic ambition of presenting national individuality in its awareness-raising stage or
in its culmination, to the contributions of comparative linguistics and, in some cases,
to positivist procedures, did it become possible to discover and appropriate our own
classics and the project of publishing and studying our literary resources, particularly
the popular and medieval ones.’
178 Magí Sunyer

Sometime between Aribau’s generation and the next, medievalism

became a veritable romantic fever. Ramon López Soler (Aribau’s col-
league in the Philosophical Society and in El Europeo, and the man re-
sponsible for publishing ‘La Pàtria’ in El Vapor) had already used medi-
eval Catalonia as the setting set much of the action of the first romantic
historical novel in Spanish, El caballero del cisne (‘The Knight of the Swan’,
1830). But the novelist who is generally considered to have tipped the
Walter Scott-type historical novel towards Catalan themes, even though
he wrote in Spanish, was Joan Cortada with La heredera de Sangumí (‘The
heiress of Sangumí’, 1835), followed by El rapto de doña Almodis (‘The
abduction of Lady Almodis’, 1836), Lorenzo (1837), El bastardo de Entenza
(‘The bastard from Entenza’, 1838) and El templario y la vilana (‘The
Templar and the peasant woman’, 1840). It will suffice here to draw
attention, in passing, to the troubadourism of Lorenzo and to the tradition
of historical prose which would lead from Cortada to Antoni de Bofarull
and Víctor Balaguer. Those authors would exploit crucial moments in
Catalan history, first medieval and then from other periods. This process
culminated in 1862 when Antoni de Bofarull published the first modern
novel in Catalan, L’orfeneta de Menargues o Catalunya agonitzant (‘The or-
phan girl from Menergues or the death throes of Catalonia’), set in a
critical juncture at the beginning of the fifteenth century.
These historical novels with medieval themes often contained schol-
arly information which, bearing in mind the difficulty of consulting old
texts, aimed to make up for the evident shortcomings in readers’ knowl-
edge of Catalan history. Jordi Rubió (1986, 410) has stated that nobody
before Cortada had thought of annotating their novels with real facts and
documents; but the habit was taken up, among others, by Antoni de
Bofarull and Víctor Balaguer and, subsequently, by Maria de Bell-lloc. In
1840, Joan Illas i Vidal anonymously published Enrique y Mercedes. Novela
histórica del sitio de Barcelona. Contiene algunos documentos auténticos pertenecientes
a la Guerra de Sucesión, with a highly unusual and controversial setting: the
War of the Spanish Succession. In the prologue, the author expressed
regret at not having written in Catalan, because he would only have been
able to do so if he had had the soul and the language of the troubadours.
This novel also provided an appendix with documentation from the
Likewise, Jaume Tió i Noè, who had written his first play about an
episode in Spanish history, followed Cortada’s novelistic development in

that he catalanized the theatrical themes from Generosos a cual más (‘No-
body more generous’, 1840) along the same lines as he was to do later
with Alfonso el Liberal o leyes de amor i honor (‘Alfonso the Magnanimous or
laws of love and honour’, 1843) and El espejo de las venganzas (‘The mirror
of revenge’, 1844). Tió also edited two popular historical texts which
were to inspire and inform a great deal of historicist literature: Expedición
de los catalanes y aragoneses contra turcos y griegos (‘The Catalan and Aragonese
expedition against the Turks and Greeks’) by Francesc de Montcada
(which was based on Ramon Muntaner’s Chronicle, and which generated
a great amount of literature on the medieval Catalan almogàver-soldiers),
and Historia de los movimientos de separación y guerra de Cataluña en tiempos de
Felipe IV (‘History of separatist movements and war in Catalonia in the
times of Philip IV’) by Francisco Manuel de Melo, a reference text about
the mid-seventeenth-century Reapers’ War.
In 1839, Pau Piferrer published the first volume of Cataluña in the
series Recuerdos y bellezas de España (‘Memories and sights of Spain’). Both
his contemporaries and latter-day historians consider this work to be the
cornerstone of Catalan historicist romanticism. Piferrer does not hesitate
to include documents, in their entirety or in excerpt, about a history and
a literature which he knows to be unfamiliar and poorly publicized. The
quotations are usually of a scholarly nature, but there is no shortage of
literary passages inserted on the least likely of pretexts. Thus the chapter
on Sant Cugat del Vallès begins with a beautiful capital letter S which
draws with it the following footnote:
Esta S es copia de la que encabeza la segunda de las cinco baladas del tro-
vador Luis de Vilarasa, caballero catalán que floreció a principios del siglo
XV, y uno de los que forman el cancionero de París. Como poseemos uno
de los facsímiles que trajo a Barcelona el anticuario francés M. Tastu,
creemos no será inoportuno continuar la mencionada balada, que no tra-
duciremos del catalán por no concentirlo su estremada senzillez y gracia de
la frase, prendas que desaparecerían si se virtiese en cualquier otro idioma16

Piferrer 1839, 190-191: ‘This S is a copy of the one to be found at the beginning
of the second of the five ballads by the troubadour Luis de Vilarasa, a Catalan knight
from the beginning of the fifteenth century, whose work is part of the Paris anthology.
As we have one of the copies that the French antiquarian M. Tastu brought to Barce-
lona, we believe that it would not be inopportune to continue this ballad, which we
shall not translate into Catalan so as not to spoil the extreme simplicity and grace of its
phrases, which cannot be rendered in any other language.’
180 Magí Sunyer

– and he then goes on to reproduce the poem. With procedures like

these fragments of medieval classics or poems were made known. As
Josep Fontana (1993, 542) notes, the new historiography began with
Piferrer. We should not be surprised that those responsible for popular-
izing Catalan history, Víctor Balaguer and Antoni de Bofarull, followed
him also in this respect.
In 1840, the journal that introduced romanticism to the Balearics, La
Palma, was published in Majorca. The instigators, in particular Josep
Maria Quadrado and Tomàs Aguilò, focused not only on original litera-
ture about medieval themes but also on ancient literature, in such articles
as ‘Majorcan poets’ by Quadrado (who was later to undertake the task of
editing ancient texts). In the same year, in Barcelona, a project that was
impregnated with the Renaixença spirit (Badia 1994, 11) was started by
Josep Maria de Grau and Joaquim Rubió i Ors: the Co¹lecció d'Antigues
Obres Catalanes (‘Collection of ancient Catalan works’). The only works to
be published were the poems of Francesc Vicent Garcia (Rector of
Vallfogona), and those of Pere Serafí, both in 1840. That the Collection
should begin with Garcia and Serafí should be no surprise. Garcia en-
joyed considerable popularity, as was shown by the number of
re-editions of his poems throughout the nineteenth century, and there
was a widespread misconception that the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries were the golden age of Catalan literature (analogously to the
Spanish Siglo de Oro). For the same reason, it was planned to publish
Francesc Fontanella alongside medieval authors such as Ausiàs Marc
(Aramon 1997).
Let us finish where we began. In 1839, Joaquim Rubió i Ors began
the publication of the poems in Catalan entitled ‘Lo Gaiter del
Llobregat’, in the Diario de Barcelona – the first poetic campaign of the
Renaixença. Two years later he published them all in one volume with a
prologue that was steeped in medievalism. This was considered to be the
Renaixença’s first manifesto. By that time, medievalism and trobadourism
were fully established in the literature written by Catalans. Rubió was the
first to call for the revival of the Jocs Florals (‘Floral Games’), first im-
ported to Barcelona by John I:
Catalunya fou per espai de dos segles la mestra en lletres dels demés pobles;
¿per què, no pot restablir sos jocs florals i sa acadèmia del gai saber, i tornar

a sorprendre al món amb ses tensons, sos cants d'amor, sos sirventesos i ses
That did not actually take place until 1859; but in 1841, as a sort of
rehearsal, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Barcelona organized a
competition with two prizes. One was for a historical piece of work on
the Parliament of Casp, the prize for which consisted of copies of
Bofarull’s Los condes de Barcelona vindicados, and Capmany’s Memorias. The
other was for an epic poem, more than 600 lines long, about the Catalan
expedition to the East, which was awarded to Joaquim Rubió i Ors.
Significantly, the bibliography for this latter topic mentioned the popular
narrative history by Francesc de Montcada rather than the original chron-
icle by Ramon Muntaner.

On balance, the period between 1780 and 1840 was a lean time for the
publication of Catalan medieval literature. Very few editions were pub-
lished, and the ones that were often showed a considerable lack of edito-
rial sense of purpose. At the end of the eighteenth century, and largely
thanks to the initiative of Antoni de Capmany, documentation of funda-
mental historical interest with a modern approach began to be published.
At the same time a project got under way to write a dictionary of Catalan
writers, and in 1836 Torres i Amat published his Memorias. Despite the
difficulty of finding medieval texts, a medievalizing influence can be felt
in Antoni Puigblanch’s poem, in the references to Catalan expansion in
the East, in the popularization of troubadourism and, above all, in the
advent of romanticism. In fact it is already noticeable in Aribau’s ‘La
Pàtria’ and in historical novels and drama written in Spanish on Catalan
themes (Cortada, Tió i Noè). In Majorca, the journal La Palma was mov-
ing in the same direction. The most influential work at the end of this
period, Recuerdos y bellezas de España: Cataluña by Piferrer, laid down the
guidelines for assessing the past and medieval literature. Joaquim Rubió
i Ors started a new cycle with the campaign for catalanizing the language
of poetry and wrote the first manifesto of the Renaixença, including a
proposal for reviving the medieval-troubadouric Floral Games. Together

Joaquim Rubió i Ors, in Miracle 1960, 283: ‘For two centuries, Catalonia taught
literature to other nations. Why can we not revive the Floral Games and the academy
of poetry, and once again astonish the world with our love songs, sirventes and au-
182 Magí Sunyer

with Josep Maria de Grau, he was also responsible for the publication of
a Co¹lecció d’Antigues Obres Catalanes, which did not however go beyond
two volumes (neither of which contained medieval authors).
It was only in the following decades that the great medieval writers,
from the chroniclers to Ausiàs Marc, were published. Initially, because of
an inherent mistrust of the Catalan language, they were translated into
Spanish; only subsequently were they published in the original. In a letter
to Rubió i Ors, Manuel Milà i Fontanals revealed that he was planning to
publish the great medieval classics, but this was not to be. In the course
of the nineteenth century, the assessment of Catalan writers was gradu-
ally refined. In this process, considerable influence was exerted by the
guidelines and publishing activity of Antoni de Bofarull, Constantí
Llombart, Josep Maria Quadrado, Gabriel Llabrés, Francesc Pelai Briz
and, above all, Manuel Milà i Fontanals and Marian Aguiló. According to
Lola Badia (1994, 13), Antoni de Bofarull’s 1858 vision of medieval
Catalan literature was similar to the one we have now, and she considers
that it was between 1860 and 1889 that the work was done to provide
Catalan literary history with a clearer profile.18

Anguera, Pere. 1997. El català al segle XIX. Barcelona, Empúries.
Anguera, Pere. 2000. Els precedents del catalanisme. Barcelona, Empúries.
Aramon i Serra, Ramon. 1997. Les edicions de textos catalans medievals, in
Estudis de llengua i literatura. Barcelona, Institut d’Estudis Catalans.
Badia, Lola. 1994. La literatura catalana medieval vista per alguns erudits vuit-
centistes, in Actes del Co¹loqui internacional sobre la Renaixença, 9-16. Barcelona,
Cahner, Max. 2004. Literatura de la revolució i la contrarevolució (1789-1849). Barce-
lona, Curial.
Feliu, Francesc et al., eds. 1992. Tractar de nostra llengua catalana. Vic, Eumo.
Fontana, Josep. 1993. La fi de l’Antic Règim i la desamortització. 4th ed., Barcelona,
Edicions 62.
Fontana, Josep. 1997. El Romanticisme i la formació d’una història nacional
catalana, in Actes del Co¹loqui sobre el Romanticisme, 539-549. Vilanova i la
Geltrú: Biblioteca Museu Víctor Balaguer.

This article is part of the research carried out by the research group in National
and Gender Identity in Catalan Literature of the Rovira i Virgili University and project
HUM 2006-13121/FILO of the Ministry of Education and Science.

Fuster, Joan. 1976. Llengua i literatura en el primer terç del segle XIX, in De-
cadència al País Valencià. Barcelona, Curial.
Gadea i Gambús, Ferran. 1994. Notes sobre la recuperació, valoració i edició
dels clàssics durant la Renaixença. Estudi especial de les cròniques, in Actes
del Co¹loqui internacional sobre la Renaixença, 2: 17-32. Barcelona, Curial.
Marcet, Pere, Joan Solà. 1998. Història de la lingüística catalana. Vic, Eumo.
Martel, Philippe. 1992. Occitans i catalans: Els avatars d’una germanor, in Actes
del Co¹loqui internacional sobre la Renaixença, 1: 377-390. Barcelona, Curial.
Miracle, Josep. 1960. La Restauració dels Jocs Florals. Barcelona, Aymà.
Molas, Joaquim. 1962. Poesia neoclàssica i pre-romàntica. Barcelona, Edicions 62.
Molas, Joaquim. 1974. Poesie catalana romàntica. 2nd ed.; Barcelona, Edicions 62.
Piferrer, Pau. 1839. Recuerdos y bellezas de España I: Cataluña. Barcelona.
Rubió, Jordi. 1986. Història de la literatura catalana. Montserrat, Publicacions de
l’Abadia de Montserrat.
Simbor, Vicent. 1980. Els orígens de la Renaixença Valenciana. València, Universitat
de València.
EUROPEAN STUDIES 26 (2008): 185-219


Philippe Martel

In the investigation of the earliest medieval manifestations of their
national culture, nineteenth-century French scholars and intellectuals
faced a problem: the Troubadours use an idiom which some centuries
later had come to be rejected as mere patois. Paradoxically, a literary
tradition of Europe-wide prestige, born on French territory, is not
properly French. The discovery of the Oxford manuscript of the
Chanson de Roland (1837) and other Chansons de geste of the langue d’oïl
afforded more convenient Great Ancestors to the French intelligen-
tsia; accordingly, poetry of the langue d’oc drops out of the canonic
corpus of the beginnings of the nation’s literature. Meanwhile, the
theme of the Albigensian crusade is being re-discovered and quickly
sidelined as a threat to the French national mythology. But some
southern French intellectuals, sensitised to this heritage, devote them-
selves to its promotion. Mistral and his Félibres make it the basis of
their planned Occitan Renaissance. This incipiently nation-building
project faces two drawbacks: the social status of the actors of the
Occitan renaissance (modest middle-class in the main) bars them
from attaining any significant political or intellectual power; and no
room is provided for Occitan-related research either at University
level or in local institutions of learning. The attempt to re-integrate
the Troubadours and Occitan literature and history into the main-
stream of canonical French culture was doomed to fail.

From the late eighteenth until the mid-nineteenth century, France, like
many other European countries, built up progressively corpus of histori-
cal and cultural references constituting the basis for a national (moral
186 Philippe Martel

and civic) consensus. The dynasty, common identity focus for the subject
of the ancien régime, had vanished after 1789; values, records and myths
were needed for the citizens of the new French nation-state. This in-
volved a new scientific discourse about history, language and literature,
and a careful evaluation of the various and sometimes contradictory
elements inherited from France’s long past. A key issue in this process
was the tension between North and South.
Multilingualism had been the rule in pre-revolutionary France, and of
course it did not vanish on 14 July 1789. Frenchmen then, and through-
out the following centuries, could be speakers of Breton, Alsatian or
Occitan-speaking France in 1789 covered one fourth of the total
population, on one third of the national territory. An important part of
France has, then, its own language, social and familial structures, mental-
ity and culture, level of economical development. More than a periphery,
it was considered the other half of France, distinct from the region
around the capital Paris. This situation differs from other regions which,
like Brittany, have a particularism but a far less significant geographical
This difference was increasingly highlighted by travelers, administra-
tors and statisticians, and was complemented by the gradual scholarly
recognition of a special language, literature and history. The question
thus arose, how the official new discourse about national identity was to
deal with this southern difference. Integrate, separate or ignore it alto-
The problem was further complicated by a basic literary fact: south-
ern France had in its own time given birth to a prestigious medieval
literature of Europe-wide renown. The trobadors or troubadours constitute
a second difference with other regions.1 Should they be recognised as the
true fathers of French literature, even though their language was not
French, but what is usually termed patois (a francocentric word indicating
boorish jargon utterly bereft of any literary quality)? How can the French
national ideology accommodate this awkward duality between the two
great literatures of medieval ‘France’, oc and oïl? How can it resolve the
contradiction between the image of prestigious medieval Occitan, and
the image of the contemporary southern-provincial patois, which most

Even the chivalric matière de Bretagne of Arthurian romance is in French, not in
Breton, and in any case deals with Britain rather than Brittany.

French intellectuals and politicians consider doomed? This contradiction

involves two other dilemmas.
To begin with, the image of the medieval South and its people (the
Midi) runs counter to the nineteenth-century view of southerners, then
widely considered by French elites as an underdeveloped, illiterate popu-
lation too much swayed by their passions owing to the southern climate,
and hence violent and politically untrustworthy. Second, history relates
how the civilisation of the celebrated troubadours had died after the
ferocious thirteenth-century Albigensian Crusade; thus the union of
North and South is the result of what many historians from the early
nineteenth century onwards began to represent as mere mass-murder
induced by clerical fanaticism and Northern greed. Was France, then, the
offspring of a genocide?
In what follows, I aim to show how those dilemmas were dealt with
by early-nineteenth-century intellectuals. What did they actually know
about the troubadours and the Occitan Middle Ages? How did they
perceive them? How does their perception change over time? Is it possi-
ble to find a difference between northern and southern intellectuals? And
specifically: are the ancient troubadours to be enlisted by some ‘Occitan’
national-literary movement in search of historically legitimate ancestors,
particularly when some of those intellectuals (in the ambience of Mistral
and the Félibrige) begin to mount a ‘Provençal’ linguistic and cultural
self-assertion against Paris?

The Discovery of the Troubadours

As we know, the great period of the troubadours is over by the end of
the thirteenth century, despite the attempt, through Toulouse’s Jocs
Florals, to continue their heritage during the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries. After a period of decline, this institution, conceived to culti-
vate Occitan letters, converted itself in the early sixteenth century to the
use and cultivation of the King’s French. What has survived of trouba-
dour literature is contained in manuscripts conserved in various places,
mainly between France and Italy. Their memory was more or less vague-
ly conserved from the Middle Ages into the nineteenth century through
various channels, which can here only be briefly touched upon (Lafont
Italian culture keeps the memory of troubadour poetry because it is
an intertext to Dante and Petrarch, and influences the beginnings of
188 Philippe Martel

Italian literature. This is why from time to time, important Italian schol-
ars feel compelled to scrutinise these forerunners of Italian poetry. Thus
Pietro Bembo in the sixteenth century and Giovanni Crescimbeni in the
seventeenth planned (fruitlessly) an anthology of troubadour poetry; the
latter at least managed to see into print an Istoria della volgar poesia (1678)
which pays attention to troubadours.
In France meanwhile, ‘gothic’ (i.e. medieval) literature was little ap-
preciated, even held in contempt. But in Provence, some sixteen-century
scholars like Jean de Nostredame (Vies des plus célèbres et anciens poetes
provençaux, 1575) maintained some kind of knowledge about the trouba-
dours, albeit tainted sometimes with imaginative reconstructions or even
downright mystifications. Nostredame (brother, incidentally, of the fa-
mous Nostradamus) audaciously transforms all ancient Troubadours,
whatever their actual birth-place, in true and pure Provençals. He is also
responsible for an invention which remain current until the end of nine-
teenth century, the strange tribunal of the Cour d’Amour, in which beauti-
ful and wise Provençal noblewomen were supposed to have passed
judgement on intricate affairs of the heart. Nostredame is aware of Ital-
ian writing about the troubadours, and in return Italian scholars take
note of him throughout the next two centuries, helping his clever and
fantastic inventions to the status of respectable tradition.
Among Nostredame’s more reliable successors was the great
seventeenth-century Provençal scholar and humanist Fabri de Peiresc,
who researched and copied manuscripts available in France, and also was
in touch with Italian colleagues. Following him, other Provençal intellec-
tuals like Gallaup de Chasteuil or Honoré Bouche (author of a 1664
History of Provence), and later still, in the eighteenth century, Président de
Mazaugues continued the tradition of collecting ancient texts. But their
work remains unpublished and has exercised no direct influence on
cultural and literary life in modern Provence. There is still a literary pro-
duction in the vernacular language in the sixteenth through eighteenth
centuries, but its models are French and Italian, baroque in style and
without similarity to medieval Occitan poetry..
But changes were in the air. In Italy, a Catalan cleric, Dom Bastero,
developed during an Italian journey an interest in what he encountered
about troubadours. Although he failed to publish the genuine original
texts, he did produce a seminal book on the topic, La Crusca provenzale
(Rome, 1724), the first study about the subject which escapes the fate of

unpublished obscurity. That does not mean his work is above criticism.
He deals mainly with the Vidas or Lives of the ancient poets; they had
also been used by Nostredame to build some of his fantasies, and
Bastero does not correct those. Worse: being himself Catalan-speaking,
he succumbs to the temptation of claiming his own Catalan language as
the only true heir to the troubadours’ old ‘Provençal’, as opposed to the
‘debased’ idiom of ‘Occitania’ (a term he is familiar with). Nostredame
had outrageously ‘Provençalised’ all medieval Occitan poets, and Bastero
follows in his footsteps, out of Catalan patriotism. One century later, the
first protagonists of the Catalan renaixença remembered him, and took it
for granted that their Catalan ancestors had played a leading part in the
prestigious courtly productions of the twelfth century. Which could not
fail to engender subsequent controversies with Occitan intellectuals....
French learning followed suit. Troubadours found a place in the
monumental Histoire générale de Languedoc (1737) by two Maurist Benedic-
tines, Dom Vic and Dom Vaissète, who likewise emphasise the contribu-
tion of their province to ancient Occitan literature. But their main pur-
pose being historical (recalling the glory and, incidentally, the legitimacy
of old provincial privileges) rather than literary, their perspective on the
subject is derivative. Also in 1737, the great French literary antiquary
Lacurne de Saint Palaye, with the help of collaborators and correspon-
dents, began his enormous work of deciphering and copying the material
conserved in French libraries – first of all the Bibliothèque royale, later also
local or private libraries. By 1739, Lacurne and his staff extended their
survey to Italy. The result of this work: some five thousand items tran-
scribed with attempts at translation. One cannot but admire this achieve-
ment. Lacurne de Saint Palaye was an expert in medieval French, and
had a good command of paleography, but as a non-Occitan-speaker
from Bourgogne, he was in no position to grasp the language and the
subtle rhetoric of Occitan poetry. He nevertheless succeeded in making
his way through a vast amount of this foreign material.
But once again, this remarkable work was to remain largely unpub-
lished. Only in 1774 one of Saint-Palaye’s collaborators, Millot, pub-
lished a selection of ca. 100 items in a book audaciously en titled Histoire
littéraire des troubadours, contenant leurs vies, des extraits de leurs pièces et plusieurs
particularités sur les moeurs,les usages et l’histoire du XIIème et du XIIIème siècle.
For the first time, a large public – large by period standards of course –
190 Philippe Martel

was given a glimpse of what ancient Occitan poetry was. And that is
where the trouble started.

The North-South Controversy

Concerning troubadours, their language and their country, Millot had
some particular ideas. Of course, for him, these old poets are French,
and inhabitants of the ‘French monarchy’s southern provinces’. No place
either for Catalan pretensions or for any notion of a separate Occitan
identity. Moreover, the very location of their homeland provides these
poets with mental characteristics directly determined by the climate they
Sous un beau ciel, dans un pays favorisé par la nature, où la chaleur du
climat excite l'esprit sans affaisser le coprs, le goût de la poésie doit être
plus vif qu'ailleurs, et plus fertile en productions. Telles étoient les prov-
inces méridionales de la monarchie françoise, toutes comprises sous le nom
commun de Provence, parce que la langue provençale leur étoit commune
à tous.2
Nothing really original here. At least since Montesquieu, climate theory
had been flourishing: an attempt at a materialistic explanation of cultural
and anthropological diversity, holding that societies in the various parts
of the world are determined by their natural habitat. From this point of
view, the influence of sun and light enjoyed by southern Europe (and
southern France) affects the bearing of the southerners, makes them
more sensible to sensations, colours, music, but also less reasonable and
more passionate than the stolid populations labouring under a colder,
rougher climate. Such a theory, of course, implies a gradation between
peoples, a hierarchy privileging Northerners as best fitted for reflection,
judgement and progress. The capacity of conceiving and building the
future is theirs, whereas the sensuous and passionate folk of southern
regions had their high-point in remote past periods: classical antiquity,
the Italian, and Occitan Middle Ages. According to Millot and his ilk,
ancient Occitan poetry owes much more to these objective climatic
conditions than to a true creative capacity: from the outset, a close rela-

Millot 1774, 1: xx: ‘Under bright heavens, in a country favoured by nature, where
the warmth of climate excites spirit the without weakening the body, the inclination
for poetry has to be more vivid than elsewhere, and more fertile in productivity. So it
was in the French monarchy’s southern provinces, all known at that time under the
common name of Provence, because all shared the Provençal language’.

tionship is established between southern France (‘Midi’) and that greater

south that encompasses Italy, Spain, and the Mediterranean at large. The
same gesture introduces a subtle devalorisation of this poetry and of its
Subtle: for Millot liberally bestows flattering epithets on the poets he
deals with, and strongly suggests that they were in fact the forerunners of
the West’s cultural renaissance. They only came too soon – a common-
place which was to survive for a long time after Millot:
Dans le douzième, le treizième et le quatorzième siècle, elle fut parmi les
personnes polies ce que devint ensuite la langue italienne, et ce que la fran-
çoise est aujourd’hui. La réputation et les ouvrages des troubadours firent sa
fortune. Rien n’égaloit ces poètes. Chacun s’empressoit de les connoître, de
chanter leurs pièces. C’étoient comme les hérauts et de la chevalerie et de la
galanterie, dont l’empire embrassoit toute l’Europe méridionale. Les écri-
vains qui ont l’art de plaire contribuent beaucoup au sort des langues. Le
provençal n’est retombé dans l’oubli que parce que les productions
italiennes l’ont effacé par leur mérite.3
Interesting, indeed: not only have those too precocious writers and their
language dropped into oblivion, but this fate is due to the superiority of
other languages and cultures like Italian. ‘Provençals’ dropped behind in
the onwards march of literary progress and were swept aside by more
gifted competitors. History itself and their own lack of staying power
(rather than, say, the Albigensian crusade), may be held responsible for
the demise of Occitan literature. For Millot, troubadour poetry, on the
long run, lacked depth and variety. Marvelous though these poets are,
they are slightly repetitive, unable to renew their art and explore new
paths. As a man with of high moral standards (he is a cleric, after all) he
also denounces their immorality. This opinion, too, remained current for
a long time.
At the time, however, Millot’s work and saccharine translations met
with some success: at the end of the century, a ‘mode troubadour’ oc-
curred, which does not of course imply a true understanding and knowl-

ibid. 1: 413-414. ‘In the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Provençal
language had that status among educated persons that was later enjoyed by Italian, and
nowadays by French. The fame and works of the troubadours made its fortune. Noth-
ing equaled those poets. Everyone was eager to know them, and sing their pieces.
They were like the heralds of chivalry and gallantry, whose empire took in all of
southern Europe. Authors who know how to please always contribute largely to the
prestige of their language. Provençal only fell into oblivion because Italian works
outshone it by their merit’.
192 Philippe Martel

edge of what the troubadours actually were. This success understandably

provoked some jealousy in the small circle of those who had an interest
in medieval literature. A severe critique of Millot’s views was brought
forward from, precisely Saint-Palaye’s staff, with a book by Legrand
d’Aussy. Himself an editor of old French fabliaux, he may have resented
the success of his ex-colleague, which was withheld from himself and his
own works. But on another level, he seems to be the first French scholar
to understand what danger the canonisation of long-forgotten trouba-
dours might constitute for the ways in which the beginnings of French
language and literature were seen. His Observations sur les Troubadours, par
l’éditeur des fabliaux are a lengthy and circumstantial attack on ancient
Occitan poets:
Le hasard (...)m’ayant associé aux travaux d’un savant estimable, lequel
s’était consacré spécialement à l’étude approfondie des deux Romanes,
française et provençale, je me vis enfin à portée d’apprécier les Poëtes des
deux Langues. Quelle fut ma surprise, lorsque en parcourant ces trouba-
dours si vantés, ces troubadours qu’on nous représentait comme les pré-
cepteurs de la Nation, je ne trouvai chez eux que des poésies tristes, mono-
tones, insipides et illisibles; tandis que les rimeurs de nos provinces
septentrionales, inconnus et dédaignés, m’offraient, à mon grand éton-
nement, des productions pleines de gaieté, d’esprit et d’imagination.4
Legrand d’Aussy is unimpressed by climate theory and its application to
the different qualities and flaws of northern trouvères and southern trou-
badours. Against Millot he argues:
(...) quoiqu’il en dise, je ne crois pas qu’au nord de la Loire le climat soit
glacé; qu’on y naisse au milieu des brouillards, et avec des organes épais et
engourdis. Ces tristes couleurs avec lesquelles on nous peint ordinairement
le ciel de Sibérie ou celui du Groenland ne sont point celles qui con-
viennent au ciel de Paris et d’Orléans. (...) Non, ce n’est point, je le répète,
la température favorable de tel ou tel climat qui fait que les hommes y
excellent dans la Poésie ; ce n’est point cet avantage d’une latitude plus

Legrand d’Aussy 1781, 1-2: ‘As chance had associated me to the works of an
esteemed scholar, [Lacurne de Sainte Palaye], who had specially devoted himself to the
elaborate study of both Romance languages, French and Provençal, I became at last
capable of appreciating the poets of both traditions. What a surprise it was for me,
when, reading through those much-celebrated troubadours, who had been represented
to us as the preceptors of our nation, I found their works woeful, monotonous, dull
and unreadable, whereas the rhymers of our northern provinces, though unknown and
despised, provided me, to my great astonishment, with productions full of cheer, wit
and imagination.’

méridionale qui nous a procuré les chefs-d’oeuvres des Grecs et des

Legrand d’Aussy clearly prefers northern trouvères:
Aussi ne sont-ce point les deux idiomes que j’ai comparés, mais les produc-
tions des deux peuples, car pour qu’un musicien se fasse une réputation, il
ne lui suffit pas d’avoir le meilleur des instrumens; il faut encore qu’il sache
le toucher. Plus celui qu’avaient à manier nos trouveurs était ingrat et plus
leur gloire est grande d’avoir néanmoins réussi à nous plaire. Leur langue,
d’abord informe, s’est perfectionnée avec le temps (...) Le sort qu’a obtenu
la Provençale me paraît presque entièrement opposé. Accueillie dès sa
naissance par l’Italie et l’Espagne, elle se voit appelée en quelque sorte à
une destinée brillante. Mais bientôt tout change. A peine les deux Nations
qui l’avaient adoptée ont-elles à leur tour produit des Poëtes, que tout à
coup la médiocrité des siens lui fait perdre sa renommée. Elle retombe dans
l’obscurité et dans l’oubli, et n’est plus que le patois d’un canton particulier,
dans lequel la Romane française, plus heureuse, vient par la suite s’établir
avec éclat et dominer comme souveraine.6
Legrand d’Aussy’s venomous attack was answered by a Provençal,
Bérenger, whose ‘Lettre à M. Grosley’ was published in the prestigious
Mercure de France on 24 August 1782. It points out the fundamental in-
competence of both Millot and Legrand, Northerners unable to appreci-
ate Occitan language and poetry properly:
Il ne faut pas juger de ces poésies par la mauvaise traduction qui en a été
donnée, mais (...) on doit les lire dans la langue originale; or, cette langue

ibid. 55: ‘Whatever he may say about it, I do not believe that north of the Loire
the climate is icy; that up there one is born amidst fog, and with thick and sluggish
organs. Those dull colours in which the skies of Siberia or of Groenland are usually
represented to us, are not those which belong to Paris and Orleans (...) No, it is not, I
repeat, the favourable temperature of one climate or another that makes the men there
excel in poetry; it is not the advantage of a more southerly latitude that bequeathed to
us the masterpieces of Greeks and Romans.’
I bid. 523-53: Therefore I did not compare the two idioms, but the productions of
both people: because for a musician to become famous, it is not enough to have the
best instrument; he must also play it well. The poorer the instrument our trouvères had
to use, the greater is their glory at being nonetheless able to please us. Their language,
inform at first, improved with time (...) [What happened to Provençal] seems to me
almost entirely opposite. Welcomed by Italy and Spain as soon as it was born, it was in
some way marked out for a brilliant destiny; but soon this all changed. As soon as the
two nations which had adopted it began to produce their own poets, its own inner
mediocrity made it lose its fame. It has fallen back into obscurity and oblivion, and is
now nothing more than the patois of a particular district, whereas the happier Ro-
mance language of France succeeds to establish itself with splendour, and to dominate
as a sovereign.’
194 Philippe Martel

n’est pas facile à entendre. M. Legrand convient lui-même qu’il ne l’entend

qu’avec beaucoup de peine. Quel jugement peut-il donc porter sur les
tournures, les expressions, les métaphores, les images qui lui sont particu-
lières, & qui n’ont plus aucune valeur quand elles sont mal interprétées,
affoiblies & dénaturées, en passant dans un idiome étranger ? (...) Pour bien
comprendre les poésies des Troubadours, il faut avoir reçu le jour dans le
pays où ils ont eux-mêmes vécu: encore même tout le monde ne pourroit-il
en venir à bout parce qu’il ne suffit pas de savoir le langage actuel, il est
encore nécessaire de connoître l’ancienne Romance provençale, qui en
diffère beaucoup & qui n’a pas plus de rapports avec lui que l’italien du
douzième siècle peut en avoir avec l’Italien modene. Mais enfin, en sup-
posant qu’un habitant des provinces méridionales voulût bien s’appliquer à
ce genre de travail, il seroit infiniment plus propre qu’un étranger à décou-
vrir des beautés dans ces poèsies, par les analogies encore subsistantes.
Telles expressions qui paroitroient foibles ou vides de sens à celui-ci,
offriroient quelquefois de très belles images à celui-là.7
Three years later, another Provençal, Achard, gave his opinion about the
troubadours and their language in the introduction of his Dictionnaire de la
Provence. He went further than Berenger in his praise, making ‘Provençal’
the mother tongue of all Romance languages – an idea which others
would adopt later.
La langue provençale fut long-tems celle des Cours de l’Europe. Elle a la
gloire d’avoir donné naissance au François, à l’Espagnol, à l’Italien & à
plusieurs Langues analogues à celles-ci. Cette vérité incontestable semble
avoir échappé aux connoissances de plusieurs Auteurs qui font dériver ces
idiomes de la Langue Latine (...) Parfaitement analogue à la langue pro-
vençale, la Romance, qui étoit la langue des François, éprouva des varia-
tions, elle différa bientôt dans chacune des provinces de la France, & ce
n’est que dans le douzième siècle que la langue françoise prit un caractère

Bérenger, ‘Lettre à Monsieur Grosley’, Mercure de France, 24 August 1782: ‘This
poetry is not to be judged by the bad translation that was given of it, but has to be
read in its original language. However, this language is not easy to understand. M.
Legrand himself confesses he understands it only with difficulty. What opinion is he
therefore competent to give about its proper turns of phrase, expressions, metaphors,
imagery, as these, having passed through a foreign idiom, are ill-interpreted, weakened
and disfigured? In order to understand the troubadours’ poetry properly, one must
have been born in the country where they lived themselves. Additionally, it is not
enough to know the present language, one must also understand the old Provençal
Romance, which differs greatly from the modern and has no more link with it than
twelfth-century Italian has with modern Italian. And finally, supposing that an inhabit-
ant of the southern provinces would undertake to put his mind to this kind of work,
he would be infinitely more able than a foreigner to find beauty in these poems be-
cause of the analogies that still remain. Those expressions, which would seem weak or
meaningless to outsiders, to him would still offer very charming pictures.’

différent de la langue mère. Celle-ci se conserva dans quelques provinces

parmi le peuple; elle s’est maintenue dans sa perfection en Provence où le
génie patriotique l’a perpétuée.8
Thus, the marvelous French language extolled by Legrand is represented
as merely a late offshoot of southern Provençal, which survived the trou-
badours and but maintained itself in all its purity among Achard’s Pro-
vençal compatriots... Despite Achard’s obvious, strenuous Provençal
patriotism, it would be wrong to see this as the only motivation behind
those answers to Legrand d’Aussy; indeed Achard was about to produce
a Provençal grammar, which some years later he sent to none other than
the patois-hunting Henri Grégoire. But Berenger published only in
French, in the Parisian press, and obviously sought a nation-wide French
(rather than provincial) career. We may assume therefore that his main
purpose was not so much to stand up for Provençal glories as to offer
his expertise as, shall we say, an indigenous guide able to lead strangers
in the maze of an ill-understood language. That trend was to be followed
by many southern-born intellectuals: to claim of a position in the na-
tional (Paris-centered) cultural world as the recognised specialist of
southern particularities. Berenger has no special interest in Occitan,
which he does not write, and which, furthermore, people of his social
position are beginning, at this precise moment (the late eighteenth cen-
tury), to abandon as their customary and familial speech.
No real Provençal patriotism, then, and of course not the least idea of
any claims towards a separate, let alone national identity. For Millot and
all his contemporaries, Provençal is evidently a part of French. The cele-
brated symmetrical pair of oc and oïl plays into this idea, and engenders
the notion of what can be termed the original race between the twins: At
the beginning there were two varieties of french, and its is only through
historical contingency that the French monarchy was based around Paris,
thus favouring the final choice of oïl variety as the basis for true present

Achard 1785, ‘Iinstructions préliminaires’, 1: xi-xii: ‘The Provençal language was
for a long time that of the European courts. Its glory is to have given birth to French,
Spanish, Italian and several languages akin to these. This indisputable truth seems to
have been missed by several authors who derive these languages from Latin (...)
Wholly analogous to Provençal, the Romance spoken by the Frenchmen underwent
variations, and soon differed in each French province; not before the twelfth century
did the French language take on features alien to its mother speech. That mother
speech remained alive in some provinces among common people. It maintained itself
in its perfection in Provence, where it was maintained by the spirit of patriotism.
196 Philippe Martel

official French. Unlike Legrand d’Aussy’s model, this theory does not
blame the decline of Occitan on a lack of intrinsic qualities, is political
rather than literary and invokes something like a raison d’état. But it leaves
the nature of historical causation open: what precisely were the contin-
gencies which made Paris the centre of choice for the political powers,
and brought it into a position to enforce its rule upon southern country?
Still many authors, whatever their mutual differences, concur in applying
the ‘race between the twins’ model, and play the little rhetorical ‘what if’
game of the failed opportunities: we find it both in the writings of the
Languedocian lexicologist Boissier de Sauvages’s (Dictionnaire
Languedocien-français (1785 ed., 2: 143) and in §6 of Rivarol’s Universalité de
la langue française (1784):
Si le provençal, qui n’a que des sons pleins, eût prévalu, il auroit donné au
français l’éclat de l’espagnol et de l’italien; mais le Midi de la France, tou-
jours sans capitale et sans loi, ne put soutenir la concurrence du nord, et
l’influence du patois Picard s’accrut avec celle de la couronne. C’est donc le
génie clair et méthodique de ce jargon et sa prononciation un peu sourde
qui dominent aujourd’hui dans la langue française.9
This has become the accepted version to the point that Henri Grégoire,
the Convention representative (who had no common ground with the
reactionary Rivarol apart from their love for the French language) as-
serted almost literally the same thing in his notorious Rapport sur la né-
cessité et les moyens d’anéantir les patois et d’universaliser l’usage de la langue
française of 1794:
(...) probablement, au lieu de la langue des trouvères, nous parlerions celle
des troubadours si Paris, le centre du gouvernement, avoit été situé sur la
rive gauche de la Loire.10
‘Probably’: it was after all only a question of chance. As a consolation,
southern intellectuals claimed the famous Oaths of Strasbourg as a mon-
ument of their language, dating from a time when the scales had not yet

Rivarol as quoted in Lafont 1982: ‘Had Provençal, which knows only full sounds,
prevailed, it would have given to French the glamour of Spanish and Italian; but the
Midi of France, always deprived of a capital and lawless, could not cope with the
competition of the North, and the influence of the Picard patois grew along with that
of the crown. Hence the clear and methodic genius of this idiom, and its somewhat
muffled pronunciation, now dominate in the French language.’
Grégoire as quoted in De Certeau 1975, 306: ‘Probably, instead of the trouvères'
language, we would speak that of the troubadours, if Paris, the centre of government,
had been situated on the left bank of Loire.’

tipped towards the north: thus in 1807, a distinguished member of the

Academy of Nîmes, Jean-Julien Trelis, ‘demonstrated’ to his colleagues
that the language of these Oaths (‘the oath of Charles the Bald’s army
(...) spoken at Strasbourg in 842’) is pure modern ‘langue d’oc’:
‘Sé Louis lou sacramen Kë a soun fraire Karlë a jurat counservo, & Ke
Karlë moun signour dé sa part noun lou tenié; se lou destournar noun lou
podi ni ieou ni deguz que ieou destournar noun poësse, en nullo ajudo
contro Louis noun I iren:’ C'est le serment de l’armée de Charles le Chauve
à l’occasion de son traité avec Louis le Débonnaire [sic]. Il fut prononcé à
Strasbourg en 842.11
A problem, though: here is the genuine original version:
Si Lodhuigs sagrament que son fradre Karlo jurat conservat Et Karlus meos
sendra de suo part non lo stanit, si io returnar non lint pois ne io ne neuls
cui eo returnar int pois in nulla aiudha contra Lodhuig nun li iu er.
The sad reality is that honest Trelis has simply translated the text in his
contemporary dialect, for the sake of his demonstration. But he is not the
only one to use that stratagem, which was in vogue not only in Occitan
regions. Catalan or northern Italian intellectuals did exactly the same
around this time, as they had done before, and would continue to do

Revolution and Empire: A Crossroads

With the 1789 Revolution, all those debates ceded to others, far less
innocent. The new-born nation’s concerns are far removed from serene
speculation about France’s linguistic and literary origins. In contrast, the
more crucial question that arises is the one of the linguistic unity as a
necessary condition for the achievement of the nation’s ideological and
political unity. At this point we meet again with Gregoire, his linguistic
survey of 1790, and his aforementioned Report (cf. De Certeau 1975).
During the summer of 1790, abbé Henri Grégoire, representative in the
Assemblée constituante (1789-1791), and later in the Convention (1792-1795)
sent to ‘societés populaires’ in the provinces a questionnaire of 43 points
about the various idioms spoken on French territory. Those questions
appear purely scientific (origin of the patois, its phonetic features, exis-

Trélis 1807, 104. There is also a historical lapsus here: the Louis mentioned in
the Oaths of Strasbourg was not Louis the Debonaire (better known as Louis the
Pious), but his son Louis the German.
198 Philippe Martel

tence of a literature in patois, etc.); but the core lies in points 30 and 31.
Question 30 asks whether the correspondents would consider it useful to
eradicate the patois; the next suggests the correct answer, by asking
through what means this eradication could be achieved. Grégoire’s view,
which he shared with many revolutionary thinkers, is that linguistic vari-
ety in France is the product of feudalism, the result of a devious aristo-
cratic plot to divide the common people into mutually unintelligible
jargons, in order to hinder any concord between them. Grégoire, like
many others (and not all of them on the side of the Revolution), is fur-
ther convinced that those jargons, rude and defective, are unable to
express modernity, Reason and Progress. To connect with those forces,
citizens must master French, the language of law and power, and in the
same gesture abandon their ancient idioms, in a kind of quasi-religious
conversion: a new language for a new Man.
A problem: if the correspondents, mostly militant revolutionaries,
duly and eagerly agree with Grégoire’s purpose, their answers give rise to
a good deal of contradictions, mostly with regard to Occitan dialects. As
we have seen, Achard naively sent along his grammar – whereas
Grégoire believed that a patois could not have any established grammati-
cal rules. Others assert that their patois is understood over great dis-
tances – whereas Grégoire suggests in his question nr 16 that it changes
from one village to the next. And many actually give titles of books, and
names of patois authors...Four years later, Grégoire’s Report cannot but
take account of those elements. It concludes, unsurprisingly, by stating
the necessity of eradication, but acknowledges the existence of what
could be called the Occitan exception, of which we had a glimpse earlier:
the vivid idiom of no less vivid Southerners could have been the official
language of France, if... This idiom has its dignity and its merits, its
authors and its literature. Therefore, if other patois-speaking regions
should be relieved to abandon their useless idioms, for Southerners it has
to be a heroically patriotic sacrifice – Grégoire speaks of ‘abjuring’. Also,
dialects may have their philosophical and scientific interest, for they
provide elements towards understanding the history of the French lan-
guage, in that they have conserved remains of former stages of its evolu-
tion. Moreover, southern dialects in particular (that is to say, Provençal;
and here perhaps Achard’s ideas show their impact) could provide new
post-revolutionary French with fresh words and turns of phrase.

These, then, are the contradictions mentioned earlier: according to

Grégoire’s report, patois dialects are bound to die, the sooner the better,
but at the same time, they are granted a sort of interest: they are to be
studied as tools to a better knowledge of French cultural history. They
are both inside and outside the field of legitimate French national cul-
Accordingly, Grégoire’s report, representative of a large consensus
among militant revolutionaries and bourgeois intellectuals as well,
generated two contradictory processes: on the one hand it justified and
paved the way for French linguistic policy, whose goal is to spread
French, and only French, at the expenses of pre-existent languages which
are ruthlessly rejected. On the other hand, Grégoire, by making the ill-
fated patois an object of study and scholarly interest, may be considered
as the unwilling harbinger of the later revivals of Occitan (as well as
Breton and Basque). It is perhaps not uninteresting to note that some of
the first to devote themselves to studying patois at the beginning of the
nineteenth century were, precisely, ex-colleagues of Grégoire in revolu-
tionary assemblies. Raynouard and Rochegude (whom we shall meet
anon) had been members of the Convention, and the oïl dialect of the
Poitou was first explored by La Revellière-Lépeaux, a former member of
the post-Convention Directoire. In 1803, a Languedoc-born author,
Fabre d’Olivet, who had likewise been a participant in the revolutionary
movement, published in two volumes a so-called medieval text; his Le
Troubadour: Poésies occitaniques du XIIIe siècle has the same degree of authen-
ticity as Trelis’ transcription of the Oaths of Strasbourg, and much less
than Macpherson’s Ossianic texts. But it testifies to the interest that the
troubadours met with.
The Napoleonic Empire was a time of great administrative surveys of
all kinds: the control of the territory, and a thorough knowledge of its
resources, was crucial for a nation at war. One of the side effects of this
gigantic inventory enterprise was the launching of the great survey, insti-
gated by Coquebert de Montbret, of the Empire’s regional patois, under
the supervision of the Ministère de l’Intérieur (1807-12). This survey gath-
ered a large collection of dialect texts with important annotations pro-
duced by those local erudites whom Napoleon’s prefects tended to in-
volve in their research – sometimes, it is the préfet himself who takes on
the task. Trellis’ observations on l’idiome languedocien are part of this mate-
rial, and the survey itself more generally signals growing interest in the
200 Philippe Martel

topic of linguistic variety at large, which in turn was beneficial to Occitan

studies. Of course, one this may have been the intention neither of the
authorities nor those intellectuals gathered in Académie Celtique who in-
spired the survey (cf. Belmont 1995) They still followed the line of rea-
soning indicated by Grégoire: to improve the knowledge of national
history by a data inventory from the obsolescent and doomed regional
patois. Indeed, the survey’s first effect was to spread awareness among
the learned public as to the position of Breton, Occitan and other idi-
oms. This interest is above all manifest through the impact of books like
Essai sur la littérature provençale (Aubin-Louis Millin, 1808) or Sismondi’s
De la littérature du Midi de l'Europe (1813). Millin was known for having
previously published an account of his journey in southern France,
bound to nourish both knowledge and imagination about what at the
time was still a rather exotic and distant part of France (Gardy 1989).
The Swiss Sismondi is more important still for the early nineteenth-cen-
tury history of ideas (cf. Lafont 1982). A historian as well as a literary
specialist, and even something of an economist (he has his place among
the early critics of capitalism), he was a member of the famous Coppet
circle, where Madame de Staël gathered first-rate intellectuals such as
Fauriel, Benjamin Constant and the Schlegel brothers. The importance of
this circle in the French diffusion of German romanticism and Herderian
ideas is well known; which makes Sismondi an intellectual opinion-
maker of European, rather than merely French, importance.
Sismondi did not know either old or modern Occitan and confesses
his ignorance frankly. What he knows of Troubadours comes directly
from Millot. He adds some interesting ideas, for example about a possi-
ble influence of Arab poetry (an enduring debate). Moreover, he points
out what he perceives as a fundamental gap between northern and south-
ern France, between two ‘races’, two peoples, each with its own charac-
ter, its own culture, its own territory (his Provençals include Catalans as
well). This idea was shared, independently perhaps, by notables from the
South itself. The comte de Portalis, of an old Provençal family, presented
the following sentiments in 1813 to the Academy of Aix (of which he
was a member):
La Provence, située sous un ciel pur et serein, avoit mieux conservé les
bienfaits de la civilisation, parce qu’elle avoit été moins souvent visitée par
les barbares. La féodalité s’y établit plus tard, avec moins d’empire et moins
d’universalité, et ses liens s’y relachèrent plutôt [sic]. Le commerce des villes

libres de Marseille et d’Arles, et leurs fréquentes communications avec les

Arabes y entretinrent le mouvement des esprits et y introduisirent la po-
litesse. Aussi la langue provençale donna-t-elle naissance à la Littérature
vulgaire en Europe. (...) Bientôt, l’italien, l’espagnol, le français s’élevèrent
sur les ruines du provençal, et ces filles orgueilleuses firent oublier leur
mère. (...) Le français prévalut en tout (...) On en vint jusqu’à ne plus enten-
dre dans leur Patrie le langage des Troubadours: on en vint jusqu’à oublier
qu’ils avoient laissé des ouvrages complets tant en prose qu’en vers. Il fallut
que les prétentions exagérées des partisans des vieux trouvères français
obligeassent les Provençaux, sensibles à l’affront que recevoit leur nation, à
exhumer de la poussière des bibliothèques leurs anciens titres de gloire.12
Troubadours and Albigensians: The Unholy Crusade
Sismondi, though widely read, is an amateur, after all. Enter, now, the
true founders of nineteenth-century troubadour studies, former revolu-
tionaries, now sobered, Raynouard and Rochegude. Raynouard (member
of the Académie Française) published in 1816 the first anthology of
original troubadour texts (Choix des poésies originales des Troubadours). Al-
though he gives no translations – this will happen immediately after
publication of the first dictionary of old Occitan – he nonetheless offers
direct access to a hitherto inaccessible corpus. In 1819 followed Roche-
gude’s anthology, Le Parnasse occitanien, with more than 200 original texts.
Raynouard, the academician, publishes in Paris, Rochegude in Toulouse;
he will therefore remain less well-known. But they are both Occitan-
born. Raynouard is Provençal, Rochegude of the Toulouse region. Here
we encounter again what we had noticed concerning Bastero: where
authors come from influences the way they conceive their subject, as
shown by their very nomenclature. Raynouard’s troubadours are pro-
vençaux, Rochegude’s Parnassus is occitanien, a word which at this stage is

Portalis as quoted in Merle 1990, 2: 523: ‘The Provence, situated under a pure
and serene sky, had kept the blessing of civilisation better, because it had been less
often visited by barbarians. Feudalism was established here later, with less might and
less thoroughly, and its links loosened sooner. The trade of the free cities of Marseille
and Arles, and their frequent communication with Arabs, kept intellectual movement
alive and introduced politeness. Thus, the Provençal language gave birth to vernacular
literature in Europe. (...) Afterwards, Italian, Spanish and French arose on the ruins of
Provençal and those proud daughters obscured the memory of their mother. (...)
French prevailed in all respects. The language of the troubadours was forgotten in
their fatherland, as were the books, both in prose and in verse, that they had left. Only
the exaggerated pretentions of the adepts of old French trouvères compelled the Pro-
vençals, aware of the outrage that their nation suffered, to unearth from the dust of
libraries their ancient titles to glory’.
202 Philippe Martel

a somewhat pedantic synonym of ‘languedocien’. But both agree in cele-

brating early Occitan language and literature. Rochegude adds a strong
anticlerical colour. Raynouard goes very far in the direction, once ex-
plored by Achard, of conceiving a ‘langue romane’ as a mother tongue
for all of southern Europe, which thenceforth will be termed ‘Romance’
languages. Between classical Latin and those modern idioms, he imagines
an intermediary stage, the Romance proper, of which the language of
Troubadours gives the best idea. This (audacious) idea was refuted as
early as 1818 by August Wilhelm Schlegel, but would remain popular for
a long while, particularly in southern cultural circles.
But the Troubadours are not the only focus of interest for Restora-
tion scholarship. Another dimension of the Occitan Middle Ages is
about to emerge up, and complete the picture: the record of the
Albigensian Crusade and its horrors (cf. Martel 2002).
Form the sixteenth century, this episode had been mainly interpreted
in very general, catholic vs protestant terms: Are Protestants the heirs of
old Albigensians? From a catholic point of view, they share a lineage of
heresy. From a protestant point of view, it means that the True, pure
Church was alive as early as the twelfth century, and that the Reforma-
tion will vindicate the martyrs of old times. Later, the theme of the
Albigensian Crusade is used by Voltaire as an example of entrenched
clerical fanaticism. Whatever the use the old Cathars are put to, in those
very general debates the regional Occitan dimension is of no import,
except perhaps in purely regional histories like the aforementioned
Histoire Générale du Languedoc. Following the French Revolution and the
Restoration of the monarchy, the Albigensian theme obtains a fresh
function: as metaphor for the conflict between Progress and Reaction.
Here we encounter Sismondi again, and his copious Histoire des Français.
The sixth volume of this monument of liberal historiography (1823)
contains an extensive account of Albigensian Crusade, seen less as a
religious than as a political and social event. I gather together some key
Jamais la poésie n’avoit été cultivée avec plus de zèle. Presque tous les
troubadours dont les noms sont restés célèbres pendant six siècles et dont
les ouvrages ont été récemment rendus à la lumière appartenoient à
l’époque où nous sommes parvenus. (...)
Dans le même temps et les mêmes régions, l’esprit humain brisoit les an-
tiques chaînes de la superstition; les Vaudois, les Paterins, les Albigeois
s’élevoient à une religion plus sûre, ils soumettoient à l’examen des erreurs

longtemps consacrées par les fraudes des fourbes et par l’aveugle confiance
des peuples.)

Les Provençaux s’efforçoient de se constituer en corps de nation et de se

séparer absolument des Français auxquels ils étoient inférieurs dans l’art de
la guerre, mais sur lesquels ils l’emportoient par tous les progrès de la civili-
sation. (...)

Les Provençaux, arrivés alors au terme le plus élevé de leur civilisation,

regardoient les Français du nord comme des Barbares (...) Chez eux, les
commerces et les arts avoient fait des progrès rapides. Leurs villes étoient
riches et industrieuses, et chaque jour elles obtenoient de leurs seigneurs de
nouveaux privilèges. Les villes (...) étoient toutes gouvernées selon des
formes à peu près républicaines par des consuls nommés par le peuple.13
Here, the old Midi is not only shown as a sunny and poetically gifted
country, but as the privileged theatre of the first attempt of human mind
to establish civic democracy: economical development engineered in
towns, with political liberty and cultural progress as natural conse-
quences, and, to be sure, free thought. Cathars and Waldensians, are
cheerfully conflated, claiming interest less by what they actually believed
in (Sismondi does not know and does not care) than by the mere fact
that they stood against the catholic church.
But this tale has a sad ending, when northern barbarians, aroused by
clerical fanaticism, come and crush this fascinating civilisation:
Cette belle région fut abandonnée aux fureurs des fanatiques (...) sa popula-
tion fut moissonnée par le fer (...) son commerce fut détruit, ses arts re-
poussés dans la barbarie, et son dialecte dégradé du rang d’une langue poéti-
que à celui d’un patois (...) Les Provençaux cessèrent de former une Nation.
(...) Eclairés de trop bonne heure, marchant trop rapidement dans la voie de

Sismondi 1821-44, 6: 158-59, 250-251:‘Poetry had never been cultivated more
zealously. Almost all the troubadours whose names have remained famous for six
centuries and whose works have been recently brought back to light belonged to this
time’ (158). ‘At the same time and in the same regions, the spirit of humanity was
breaking the ancient chains of superstition: Waldensians, Paterins and Albigensians
were moving towards a more certain religion, and scrutinizing errors long established
by deceptive fraud and by blind popular credulity’ (159). ‘The Provençals were trying
to constitute themselves as a nation, and to get absolutely separated from Frenchmen,
to whom they were inferior in regard to art of warfare, but whom they surpassed in
every progress of civilisation’ (250). ‘The Provençals, having by then come to the acme
of their civilisation, looked upon the Northern French as barbarians. By them, trade
and arts had known rapid progresses. Their towns were wealthy and industrious, and
everyday they obtained from their lords new privileges. Cities were all governed in
almost republican form by consuls elected by the people’ (251).
204 Philippe Martel

la civilisation, ces peuples excitèrent la jalousie et l’aversion des barbares qui

les entouroient. La lutte s’engagea entre les amis des ténèbres et ceux des
lumières, entre les fauteurs du despotisme et ceux de la liberté. (...) Le parti
qui vouloit arrêter les progrès de l’espèce humaine anéantit ses adversaires,
et profita avec tant de fureur de sa victoire que le parti qu’il avoit vaincu n’a
jamais pu se relever dans les mêmes provinces ou parmi la même race
Enlightenment and Darkness: we move here in the realm of great princi-
ples and eternal abstractions, far from the actual land where took place
what appears, indeed, as one phase in a long confrontation which the
Revolution itself failed to bring to an end and which is still awaiting its
conclusion. No Occitan particularism here: in fact, Sismondi, along with
all progressive opinion of the 1820s, has no sympathy for present-day
Southerners, generally considered brutal, underdeveloped and fanatic
rustics (witness the quotations last sentence). The challenge he speaks of
is a French, or even universal one. It is a battle between two principles,
not between two peoples, notwithstanding the use he makes of ethnic
Still, unwittingly, the Swiss Sismondi provided the basis for a south-
ern appropriation of medieval Occitan history. Any Provençal or
Languedocian intellectual who subscribes to the notion that his patois had
been the first literary vernacular of the West and had even given birth to
other languages and literatures, will henceforth also acknowledge that his
country was the first fatherland of Progress, Economic Development,
Republican Democracy, free thought, and other progressive ideals. He
will also hold that the collapse of this brilliant civilisation was not the
fatal consequence of an inner deficiency, leading to weakness, decadence,
and final extinction, but the result of military conquest by illiterate bar-
barians. Once our southern-born intellectual was a provincial, living in
France’s backwaters amidst rude rustics; he will be now the progeny of a

ibid. 6: 251-252: ‘This beautiful land was left to the fury of a horde of fanatics, its
population was mown down by iron. Its trade was destroyed, its arts thrown back to
barbarism, and its dialect degraded from the rank of a poetical language to that of a
patois. Provençals were no longer a nation. (...) Too early enlightened, walking too
swiftly on the road of civilisation, those people stirred up jealousy and aversion from
the barbarians who surrounded them. The struggle began between the friends of
darkness and those of enlightenment, the supporters of despotism and those of free-
dom (...) The party opposing the progresses of mankind poured forth his foes, and
profited with such fury of his victory that the vanquished party could never come back
in the same provinces or in the same kind of people.’

medieval avant-garde. Starting from this point, it is now possible for

some of those intellectuals to conceive the idea of a return to this ancient
state of glory: the Occitan renaissance has here won a ‘national’-ideologi-
cal basis.
Gradually, such intellectuals began to claim their ancestry. Not with-
out resistance, even at home. One example: the anonymous correspon-
dent (apparently not southern-born) of the Marseilles newspaper Le
caducée, who in on 25 June 1821 reproduced the line of reasoning of
Legrand d’Aussy, as if nothing had occurred in the forty-year interval:
Les Provençaux, les Languedociens, les Gascons se sont toujours piqués
d’avoir beaucoup d’esprit ; mais ce que je leur conteste, c’est d’avoir plus
d’imagination, qu’elle soit plus vive et plus abondante que celle des habitans
du nord de la France. Mr Legrand d’Aussi ayant publié le recueil de nos
fabliaux a prouvé que dans les troubadours il n’y avait jamais un trait de
sentiment profond ni une aventure touchante. Les Méridionaux prétendent
que le soleil y étant plus chaud et plus brillant, leur imagination doit être
plus féconde. De sorte qu’en suivant ce beau raisonnement, les peuples
basanés doivent avoir plus d’esprit que les blancs, les nègres plus que les
basanés. Le soleil au contraire ne ferait-il pas sur les esprits ce qu’il fait sur
la terre ? Il rend la Provence aride. L’exaltation dont les peuples du Midi se
vantent détruit presque toujours le jugement, et sans jugemet l’enthousias-
me n’est que folie: le grand mérite d’un auteur est d’unir à un raisonnement
profond une sensibilité exquise, et Mr Legrand nous a démontré qu'on ne
peut citer aucun ouvrage de troubadour à opposer aux fables des
Still, such outbursts did not hinder a growing interest in the Occitan
Middle Ages, favoured by the climate of Romanticism. Did this mean
that the time has come for a recognition of the Occitan heritage as part

Unsigned article, Le caducée 25 June 1821, quoted in Merle 1990, 664: ‘Provençals,
Languedocians, Gascons always have boasted of having plenty of wit. But what I
challenge is that their imagination is greater, bolder or more plentiful than that of the
inhabitants of northern France. Mr Legrand d’Aussi [sic], having published the collec-
tion of our fabliaux, has proved that the troubadours never exhibited any deep senti-
ment or any moving adventure. The Southerner pretends that the warmer and brighter
sun renders his imagination more fertile; so that, following that nice line of reasoning,
dark-complexioned people must have more wit than whites, and black ones more than
the dusky ones. On the contrary, does not the sun do to minds what it does to the
soil? It makes the Provence an arid land. The exaltation which the southerners boast of
nearly always destroys judgement, and without judgement enthusiasm is nothing but
madness: the great merit of an author is to join deep reasoning to exquisite sensibility,
and Mr Legrand has proved to us that you cannot name one work from a troubadour
that matches the tales of the trouvères.’
206 Philippe Martel

of a wider, truly inclusive French heritage acknowledging its diversity?

Not quite.

1830-1850: The Scissors

By ‘scissors’, I mean two contradictory movements taking place at the
same time, in those years of relative stabilisation in French society under
bourgeois rule and with a national ideology. On one side the troubadours
and their Albigensian accomplices were disconnected from the national
discourse concerning culture and history. But on the other side, new
actors enter the fray: those who take part, in increasing numbers, in the
beginning of the Occitan renaissance.
Of course, the rejection of the troubadours is neither immediate nor
ruthless. Some first-rate French intellectuals maintain an interest in the
topic, at least for a while. First of all Claude Fauriel, whose role in Euro-
pean as well as French cultural history is well known. His main interest is
in popular literature, including that of Greece and the Balkans, as well as
French culture. He may be considered a key player in a Europe-wide
circulation and transfer of ideas, particularly of German origin (and more
particularly still of Herderian origin; cf. Denis 1982). His university
career was justified by his production and intellectual influence; his
birthplace, Saint-Etienne, is some ten kilometers north-east from the
linguistic boundary between Occitan and Franco-Provençal. Fauriel
scrutinised medieval literatures for the origins of national cultures, each
vernacular language and culture being the product of a particular Volks-
geist. For him (and he was not alone in this respect), vernacular literatures
are the expression of both an ethnic and a popular aspiration to self-
articulation. In their texts he seeks a primeval naturel, a naivete which the
further developments of established literatures have somewhat forgotten.
Occitan literature in particular was very important for him, as he saw in
it the very beginning of all French literature, its status nascendi: not only
the famous troubadours, but epics as well. To Occitan literature Fauriel
devoted a lecture series at the Sorbonne in 1830-1831.
This could be considered as the final promotion of Occitan culture
into the canon of national culture – were it not for the fact that these
lectures formed part, not of a French literature course, but of fauriel’s
remit of foreign literature. Fauriel’s preoccupations constitute an end, not
a beginning; that also goes for his following works on the subject: the
1836 Histoire de la Gaule méridionale sous la domination des conquérants

germains. Domination, Germanic conquerors: the very title is a declara-

tion, and the indication of a polemical position. In 1837 Fauriel edited a
medieval text, one of the early Occitan literary masterpieces as well as a
historical document of great interest: the Cançon de la Crosada, the versi-
fied story of the event which Sismondi had before put under light.
Fauriel has often been criticised, subsequently, for failing to notice that
the poem has in fact two authors; but at least he made a text available
which had remained unnoticed since at least the fourteenth century, and
which Frédéric Mistral would call ‘the Bible of our nationality’.
Fauriel is not in the mainstream of French literary and historical
studies as they develop after 1830: he is of an older generation, the gen-
eration of those who had been young in the revolutionary years and had
reached maturity during the Napoleonic regime. The younger generation
of French scholars held other views, far less favourable to Occitan roots.
The general context has shifted: Sismondi’s heroic tale of Enlightenment
fighting Darkness was fashionable and ideologically productive when
France was ruled by the two last Bourbon kings, and their revenge-thirs-
ty aristocrat followers, when the possibility of a complete Restoration of
the ancien régime style absolute monarchy was to be apprehended. With
the 1830 revolution, this risk disappears, and the new regime, a constitu-
tional monarchy, claims to incorporate also the heritage of the Revolu-
tion: a bourgeois king, and his bourgeois prime ministers (Thiers,
Guizot, Soult) are now in charge, and their motto ‘enrichissez-vous par le
travail et par l’épargne’ fits admirably well with the ideal of many former
opponents to the Bourbon monarchy. Enlightenment has triumphed over
Darkness and fanaticism, and the new battle is now between Order and
what Thiers calls the vile multitude: those workers and republican hotheads
who from time to time mount their barricades in the city streets. In this
scheme, Albigensian ‘victims of fanaticism’ and their troubadour spokes-
men have no role to play. The priority has shifted to provide French
society with a common origin-tale, emphasizing its long quest for unity;
here, again, the idea of a North-South conflict is counterproductive.
There were civilian conflicts and wars throughout French history, and
regrettable as they are, they can not go unmentioned, but at least they
involved in their time the whole of French society, on every point of
national territory, which made them, in a sense, mere episodes of domes-
tic conflict within the big French family. Not so with the North/South
question, which proffers the incommodious idea of two mutually hostile
208 Philippe Martel

original families, and implies that French unity was obtained, as far as
the Languedoc was concerned, through the veritable extinction of one of
those families. This skeleton is stored deep in the recesses of the tricol-
oured closet.
Jules Michelet, inspiration of the republican discursive tradition con-
cerning the nation’s history, makes this clear. As his master Sismondi had
given the Albigensian crusade so prominent a place as to render it im-
possible to ignore, Michelet subtly revises its import. He retains the
words Sismondi has used to describe pre-French ‘Provençals’ and their
country, but then plays with these words:
Ces gens du Midi, commerçants industrieux et civilisés, comme les Grecs,
n’avaient guère meilleure réputation de piété ni de bravoure. On leur trou-
vait trop de savoir et de savoir-faire, trop de loquacité. Les hérétiques
abondaient dans leurs cités demi mauresques; leurs moeurs étaient un peu
mahométanes. (...) Le Languedoc était le vrai mélange des peuples, la vraie
Babel. L’élément sémitique, juif et arabe était fort en Languedoc (...) les
Juifs étaient innombrables.16
Industrious, civilised, knowledge, cities, heretics, even bourgeois urban
republics: the elements of the picture are there, but distorted. And in
spite of Michelet’s reputation as a democrat and humanist, one cannot
but wonder at the way he insists on the racial mixture that is the charac-
teristic of southern society, and the place he assigns to Jews in particular.
As for troubadour poetry, it is swiftly dismissed:
Gracieuse, légère et immorale littérature, qui n’a pas connu d’autre idéal que
l’amour, l’amour de la femme, qui ne s’est jamais élevée à la beauté éter-
nelle. Parfum stérile, fleur éphémère qui avait crû sur le roc et qui se fanait
d’elle-même quand la lourde main des hommes du Nord vint se poser sur
elle et l’écraser.17

Michelet 1975 (1833), 2:. 433 and 501: ‘Those southerners, industrious and
civilised traders like the Greeks, had not really a better reputation of godliness or
bravery. They were thought to have too much knowledge, too much ability, too much
loquaciousness. Heretics were abundant in their half-Moorish cities. Their morals were
somewhat Mahomedan (...) The Languedoc was the true mixture of people, the genu-
ine Babel. The Semitic element, Jewish and Arab was strong in Languedoc (...) Jews
were numerous.’
406: ‘A graceful, frivolous and immoral literature, which did not know any ideal
but love, love of woman, and which never rose up to eternal beauty. A sterile perfume,
short-lived flower grown on rock, which was already withering when the heavy hand
of Northerners came and covered it to crush it.’

If someone is to blame, it is feudal barons, and church authorities. As for

the king of France, he is the one who after the crisis recovers the land
for the sake of the building the French state, preparing, in the long run,
the reconciliation under his banner between north and south, henceforth
united in the same homeland, fighting side by side against the same
hereditary (all too numerous) enemies, and happily oblivious of their
ancient grudges..
Literary history follows the same trajectory, which tends to bypass
more and more the specific culture of southern France in order to pre-
serve the master narrative of a necessary national unity around a com-
mon unique language – this being the clear and precise French. A case in
point are the remarks on medieval literature in the Cours de littérature
française taught in 1830 by Villemain, a professor at the Sorbonne and
future member of the Académie Française:
Pendant que la France du Nord était livrée à des dominations dures et
violentes (...) le Midi avait été plus paisible, plus industrieux, plus riche (...)
La douceur du climat, je ne sais quelle impression chevaleresque et gé-
néreuse venue de l’Espagne et même des Maures avaient communiqué aux
habitants une élégance poétique qui se rapproche un peu de l’humanité des
temps modernes (...) La poésie provençale, c’était, pour ainsi dire, la liberté
de la presse des temps féodaux, liberté plus âpre, plus hardie et moins ré-
primée que la nôtre. Dans les sirventés provençaux apparaît donc non
seulement une source de poésie nouvelle, mais un principe de raisonnement
et de liberté qui s’oppose à ce qui était alors bien plus puissant que le fer,
l’influence théologique et monacale.18
This sums up the liberal doxa about the achievements of progressive
Occitan literature, blessed by its climate. The author’s carefully chosen
anachronisms establish an ideological complicity with a public sharing
liberal ideas and happy to see them anticipated even in the so-called dark
ages. But Villemain is not altogether convinced by the troubadours: ‘We
Northerners, with our rainy summers and cold winters, I wonder if we

Villemain 1830, 1-ff.: ‘While northern France underwent hard and violent domi-
nation (...), the Midi had been more peaceful, more industrious, wealthier (...). The
mildness of climate, a certain impulse of chivalry and magnanimity coming out of
Spain and even from the Moors, had communicated to the inhabitants a poetic ele-
gance that is not unlike the humanity of modern times. (...) Provençal poetry was, so to
say, the liberty of press in feudal times: a tougher, bolder, less repressed one than ours.
(...) In Provençal sirventé verse appears then not only a source of new poetry, but a
principle of reasoning and freedom that stands against what was then far stronger than
iron: theological and monastic influence.’
210 Philippe Martel

are good judges for southern poetry’ (p. 161). Climate now recurs as a
cleavage between north and south.
Cette poésie des Troubadours, en devenant satirique et haineuse, perdait
quelque chose de sa brillante inspiration. Elle semble née pour chanter le
beau ciel de Provence, le printemps, les plaisirs; quand elle s'arrachait à ce
doux emploi, elle était souvent plus injurieuse qu'énergique (...) Il est ma-
nifeste, il est visible que les Provençaux haïssaient les Français et voulaient
exister à part. Un peuple, une langue, une langue, un peuple. Si la Provence
fût devenue indépendante, c'était un peuple du Midi de plus, avec son nom,
sa langue, ses arts, son génie propre.19
This anticipates Michelet’s verdict of ‘gracious and immoral’. Worse: the
linguistic singularity of those southerners, and the hatred they felt for
their northern neighbours could have led to a historical catastrophe: the
birth of a separate nation with a separate language and conscience; to the
detriment of France proper. In the equation ‘a language, a people’,
Villemain’s France offers no space for Occitan. Anyway, Villemain at
this point dismissed Occitan with a cursory obituary, moving to this true
Messieurs, nous avons rapidement esquissé les traits principaux de l’esprit
provençal, qui, d’abord parent de l’esprit français, s’en était séparé, avait
brillé d’un vif éclat, et s’affaiblit et s’éteint au moment où les provinces du
Midi sont absorbées dans le territoire français. Maintenant, nous nous rap-
prochons de notre véritable patrie, et nous tâcherons de démêler les pre-
miers caractères, les premiers indices du génie purement français.20
‘Purely French’ ... Those who were building the edifice of a ‘purely
French’ literary history, had the stroke of good fortune around this time.
In 1837, the very moment of Fauriel’s edition of Cançon de la Crosada,
Francisque Michel retrieved the Chanson de Roland from the Bodleian

223: ‘This troubadour poetry, by becoming satirical and hateful, was losing
something of its brilliant inspiration. It seems to be born to sing the beautiful sun, the
spring and pleasures of the Provence. Once it tore itself away from this sweet use, it
was often more injurious than energetic. It is manifest, it is visible that Provençals
hated Frenchmen, and wanted to live apart. A people, a language; a language, a people.
Had Provence remained independent, it would have been a was a southern people,
with its name, its arts, its own spirit’.
ibid.: ‘Gentlemen, we have rapidly outlined the main features of the Provençal
spirit, which, at first akin to the French spirit, had left it, had had a vivid glamour, and
weakened and vanished as the Midi’s provinces got absorbed into French territory. By
now, we get actually nearer to our true fatherland, and we will try to make out the first
features, the first clues of the purely French genius.’

Library at Oxford. An epic dealing with Charlemagne, the emperor of

Douce France (as the text calls it); an epic opposing the Christian hero
Roland and the Saracens whose descendants France was just then con-
fronting once again in Algeria: what could be more convenient as a foun-
dational text for French literature? Its rough-hewn virility, too, made it
different from the effete amorousness of troubadour poetry. Henceforth
(and until the present day) the canonic presentation of French literary
history in schoolbooks and handbooks will prioritise epics and chansons de
geste, relegating lyrical poetry to a more modest place. Two samples of
those handbooks will suffice as examples.
La poésie provençale, déjà si languissante vers la fin du siècle précédent,
s’éteignit au XIIIe siècle avec la civilisation qui l’avait fait naître.

En limitant ce travail à la littérature française, je devrai laisser dans l’ombre

tout ce qui se rapporte aux lettres latines et même à la poésie provençale,
qui ne nous a rien donné ou fort peu de chose, et qui se rattache plus
naturellement, par l’analogie de la langue comme par l’influence des senti-
ments, à l’Italie et à l’Espagne.21

After 1860
After 1860, medieval philology in Paris was dominated by Gaston Paris
and Paul Meyer, who through the Ecole des Chartes, the Ecole Pratique
des Hautes Etudes, and the Collège de France, held a hegemonic posi-
tion in the field of philological studies until the beginning of twentieth
century, helping their disciples to install themselves in strategic positions
throughout the university system. Although Meyer was a friend of Mis-
tral, and capable of dealing with old Occitan texts, it is clear that the two
masters and their pupils locate early French literature within the langue
d’oïl. Both doubt any real difference between southern and northern
‘gallo-romance’ dialects: the various and varied idioms across the na-
tional territory constitute a tapestry in which their colours get impercepti-
bly mingled – and Occitan disappears (Lafont 1991).

Nisard 1844, 102: ‘Provençal poetry, yet languishing by the end of the twelfth
century, died in thirteenth century with the civilisation that had given it birth’, and
Gérurez 1852, ix: ‘By restricting this work to French literature, I shall have to let aside
all that has to do with Latin literature and even Provençal poetry, which left us nothing
or hardly anything, and which is more naturally linked, both through analogy of lan-
guage and through influence of feelings, to Italy and Spain.’
212 Philippe Martel

In Paris at least. Elsewhere, things are different. In Germany, where

Gaston Paris (who studied there) and Meyer seek their methodological
models (grudgingly so, after the defeat of 1870), ‘Provenzalisch’ philol-
ogy flourish since the time of Diez and his disciples. The part played by
German universities for two centuries in the field of Occitan research
would be a subject by itself, and can here only be hinted at here in pass-
ing. Numerous text editions, anthologies, grammars, theses were pub-
lished in Germany and in German, such as Levy’s modestly-titled Supple-
ment Wörterbuch complementing the old dictionary of Raynouard: several
volumes which constitute until now the best available old Occitan
dictionary. I also pass over those German poets like Heine and Lenau,
who use Provençal material (featuring Albigensians or troubadours) as
subjects for verse or theatre. Instead, another development needs to be
highlighted: the local disciples of Raynouard and Rochegude.
Thus the Provençal Diouloufet, a correspondent of Raynouard who
published Occitan poetry as soon as 1819. In a 1829 selection of his
poems, the memory of the old troubadours is showcased:
Graci a tu, Muso prouvençalo, / Nouestre païs es immourtel / Adounc
n’avies pas toun egalo / Toun regno semblo eternel: / La fiero Muso de la
Seino / Hui voou regnar en souveraino / Despiei que siam vengut francés.
/ Mai a qu amo bèn sa patrio / Et leis cançouns et l’armounio / Toujour
plai lou prouvençalés.22
But who reads Occitan poetry? Some (rare) southern intellectuals under-
take to study and edit old Occitan texts, but these are not established
academics. A case in point is Gatien-Arnoult from Toulouse, the editor
in 1841 of the Leys d’Amor, a fourteenth-century handbook for trouba-
dour poetry and Occitan grammar: In a somewhat ironic introduction, he
relates how he tried to obtain financial support for his work from the
Department of Education, and how support was promised but vainly so;
so that Gatien-Arnoult in order to get his book published was compelled
to apply to the Académie des Jeux Floraux and the municipality of Tou-
louse. The uncooperative Education Minister who strung Gatien-Arnoult
along with vain promises turns out to be Villemain, whose opinion about
the troubadours we have encountered. Gatien-Arnoult was, politically

Diouloufet 1829: ‘Thanks to you, Provençal muse, our land is immortal. By then
you had no equal, your reign seemed eternal. The proud Muse of the Seine today
wants to reign supreme, since we have become French. But, to whom loves his father-
land, and songs, and harmony, the provençalés is always pleasing.’

speaking, republican-minded, not a very good idea in 1841; but that does
not fully explain the lack of interest among national institutions.
Another Occitan intellectual was more fortunate. Bernard Mary-
Lafon, born in the Montauban region, published his patriotic Histoire
politique, religieuse et littéraire du Midi de la France in 1845 – in Paris, where
Mary-Lafon had previously tried (rather unsuccessfully so) to make his
mark as a novelist. His purpose: to tell the story of a Midi characterised
by its love for freedom, gifted with qualities such as tolerance and clever-
ness. This Midi finds itself regularly confronted with the oppressive
jealousy of a semi-barbarous North, the country of the Franks. Through-
out the centuries, the dramatic conflicts in Southern France (the
Albigensian crusade, the sixteenth-century wars of religion, popular
revolts, and the federalist insurrection of 1793) mark so many moments
of struggle between North and South. In the end, Mary-Lafon endorses
post-revolutionary France because it subscribes to the values so long
defended by Southerners; but this does not alter the vindictive tone of
his history. Of course in this epic of the indomitable Southern spirit, the
troubadours have their place (Mary-Lafon 1845 2: 343-390). Immediately
afterwards comes the Albigensian Crusade, which ends the second vol-
ume and opens the third. Mary-Lafon not only quotes troubadour poems
in the original but also gives a fairly accurate translation, and biographic
comments about the main poets. Against national historians and literary
specialists who have at that time begun to dismiss both the troubadours
and the Albigensian Crusade, Mary-Lafon founds a counter-discourse
cleverly using the topoi established some twenty years earlier by Sismondi.
Just as Michelet draws up the outline of a national French history, whose
great principles, events and heroes constitute a canonical doxa about
Eternal France, Mary-Lafon, with his recurrent cycle of northern attacks
against freedom-loving southerners, provides his Félibrige and Occitanist
successors (on whom, cf. Martel 1992) with an Occitan doxa.
And successors he had, even if he himself did not like them very
much. Frederic Mistral (the 1904 Nobel Laureate and most prominent
representative of the Occitan renaissance) and his Félibrige friends present
themselves as the heirs of the medieval poets, and never fail to celebrate
their glory. One example among many others is Mistral’s 1861 poem
‘Odo i troubaire catalan’, an ode dedicated to Catalans poets and to the
freshly re-established Occitan-Catalan fraternity:
214 Philippe Martel

Li Troubaire – e degun lis a vincu despièi / A la barbo di clergue, à l’auriho

di rèi / Aussant la lengo poupulàri, / Cantavon amourous, cantavon li-
bramen / D’un mounde nòu l’avenimen / E lou mesprès di vièis esglàri.
Alor i’avié de pitre, e d’aspre nouvelun./ La republico d’Arle au founs de si
palun / arresounavo l’Emperaire / Aquelo de Marsiho en plen age feudau /
Moustravo escri sus soun lindau / Tóuti lis ome soun de fraire.
Alor, d’eilamoundaut, quand Simoun de Mountfort /pèr la glòri de Diéu e
la lèi dóu plus fort/ Descaussanavo la Crousado, / E que li croupatas,
abrasama de fam, / Voulastrejavon, estrifant / Lou nis la maire e la nisado,
Tarascoun e Beucaire, e Toulouso, e Beziés, / Fasent bàrri de car, Prouvèn-
ço li vesiés, / Li vesiés bouie e courre is armo / E pèr la liberta peri tóuti
counsènt.../ Aro, nous agroumelissèn / Davans la caro d’un gendarmo.23
However, although Mistral and his fellow Félibres from 1854 onward
would invoke the troubadours in poems, discourses, quotations and
epigraphs, they showed little interest in seriously studying them. Their
knowledge of the topic is most often second-hand and superficial. One
exception was that circle of Montpellier intellectuals who in 1869
founded a Société des Langues Romanes, and a journal (which still exists), the
Revue des Langues Romanes combining studies about contemporary and
medieval Occitan, editions of medieval and modern literary texts, even
folktales and songs (Martel 1988). But they soon become embroiled in
rivalry with Paris-based institutional Romance Studies, and its leaders
Gaston Paris and Paul Meyer: Parisian academics against provincial
amateur scholars... By 1890, the founders of Societé des Langues Romanes,
the félibres Tourtoulon and Roque-Ferrier, lost editorial control of their
journal, which from that moment onwards would (until recently) devote
less and less space to proper Occitan studies. Generally speaking, the
Félibrige had precious few professional academics on its rolls, and those
never played a prominent role in it. And the young fervid militants each
generation provided to the Félibrige do not seem very interested in austere

Mistral 1889, 166-168: ‘The troubadours – and no one since then surpassed
them, in spite of the priests – raising the common people’s language to the ear of
kings, sang lovingly, sang freely, the coming of a new world, and the scorn of old fears.
By then there were hearts, and sharp revival. The Arles republic, back in its marshes,
faced down the Emperor. That of Marseille, in feudal times, displayed written on his
gate: ‘All men are brethren’. By then when from far away to North, Simon de Mont-
fort, for the glory of God and the law of the strongest unchained the crusade and
when the starving raven, came flying, tearing apart nest, mother and brood. Tarascon
and Beaucaire, and Toulouse, and Beziers, their body a bulwark, Provence, thou saw’st
them, thou saw’st them seething, running at arms, and for freedom willingly dying.
Nowadays, we crouch in front of the face of a constable.’

studies of the language they use, and of the troubadour ancestry they
boast of. It comes as no surprise, then, to see that after1850 the main
studies about ancient Occitan and its literature, as well as the editions of
the fundamental Occitan corpus, continue to be pursued in Paris or in
German universities.

The problem with the troubadours is perhaps they have been spoken of far
more than actually studied: what Robert Lafont calls the ‘texte-trouba-
dours’, as substitute for the ‘texte des troubadours’. Just as if they were
not that important in themselves, but only as a pretext to speak of some-
thing else.
However, they had their chance, at one moment. They could have
been integrated into the official national canon as the first vernacular
lyric poets in France’s literary history. Their moment begins around
1774, and for all practical purposes may be considered as closed around
They could sow an entitlement to canonicity: their international re-
nown in their own day, to begin with, had been long testified to by Ital-
ian scholars. There was also their reputation of poetic elegance and pol-
ish, which made them stand out amidst the crudeness commonly attrib-
uted, in the late eighteenth century, to the Gothic Middle Ages. Their
style was both more natural and more naive, as befits the first generation
to use vernacular Romance for literary purposes; cultivated, almost mod-
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the troubadours’ standing
was boosted by their association with the political and social events of
the Albigensian Crusade: progressive thought and progressive poetry
stood shoulder to shoulder against feudal and clerical violence.
But in the long run they faded from the family photograph of
France’s glorious past. For their language is not French The illusion that
Occitan is a variant of French, nourished by the false symmetry Langue
d’oc – Langue d’oïl and the confusing linguistic category of patois, only
lasted as long as the original texts remained unavailable; a more accurate
picture of France’s linguistic landscape only emerged after the 1789
Revolution and with the linguistic surveys of the Napoleonic Empire.
Occitan is then recognised as distinctly non-French, not even some
collateral ancestor of present French. Worse, its only obvious living
216 Philippe Martel

relative is the contemporary patois of the Midi, doomed to be eradicated.

As for its association with the Albigensian Crusade, politically useful to
by left-wing, liberal intellectuals of the during Restoration period, it
becomes problematic after 1830. Before Sismondi, inhabitants of south-
ern France and speakers of southern Oc-French could figure as a part of
a larger whole, the people of France at large, of which they were merely
the most sunburnt and extraverted component. But the very insistence of
liberal historiography upon their racial difference and the recriminations
over the horrors of the crusade breaks through this illusion as well: this
Midi definitely was non-French.
The building of a national French ideology after 1789 demands unity
first of all, and rejects anything that can limit or endanger this unity.
History, including literary history, has to serve a purpose: to tell the
reassuring story of a difficult but steady march towards unification. In
this context, there is no place for any Occitan exceptionalism.
Other factors play a role as well: the interference of a ‘Midi’ ethno-
type based upon climate theory, giving rise to a characterisation of the
sun-dominated South as less truly French, leaning towards a Spanish or
Italian temperament (two nationalities enjoying little prestige in French
public opinion). Romantic exoticism and an apprehensive view of south-
ern mobs as particularly prone to political violence (from the time of the
Revolution to the ‘White Terror’ of 1815) widen this perceived tempera-
mental gap and serve to alienate and depreciate Southerners as seen by
the intellectual and cultural circles of the capital. In fact the ethnotypical
representation of Southerners is somewhat contradictory: the bright
southern sun is held to breed both the sensual, frivolous troubadours
and the disquieting, violent brown-skinned Provençal and Languedocian
peasants, with their illiteracy and their incomprehensible patois.24 But at
any rate, and whatever the variant chosen, the final picture is not posi-
tive. At this point, French official culture feels it is more expedient to
dismiss the troubadours, their poetry and their language, all together.
Of course, southern intellectuals could have recuperated it all, and
have turned it into a trump card in the assertion of cultural dignity, of
autonomy, perhaps even, in due course, of political action towards the
acknowledgement by the Centre of the rights of the Periphery: the well-

On climate theory and on the ambivalence inherent in many ethnotypes, see the
relevant articles in Beller & Leerssen 2007.

known transition, first identified by Miroslav Hroch (1985) between the

A and B phases of national movements.
Indeed, some did try to follow that more activist path. Their failure
was die in the first place to institutional factors: they lacked the institu-
tions that could match the weight and influence of national French cul-
ture and the national ideology, and sustain and diffuse an alternative
ideology locally. The Paris/Province power imbalance, so pronounced in
French history since at least the sixteenth century, left no place for any
local counterforce, be it political or simply cultural. Moreover, most of
the local intelligentsia preferred to establish their career moves at the
Centre rather than to linger unknown at the periphery – witness the
figure of Bérenger and the early ambitions of Mary-Lafon. Only after
those early ambitions had miscarried did he reorient his career strategy
and try to position himself as the spokesman of southern difference on
the central cultural market. Even Mistral himself initially sought acclaim
in Paris with his first poem in 1859, hoping that the endorsement of
‘national’ critics would gain him attention from his fellow provincials,
back there, at home. But that is another story.
Socially speaking, the protagonists of the Occitan renaissance are
mainly middle-class men: marginal to the cultural elite in terms of class
as well as geography. They possessed neither the cultural capital nor the
actual wealth and social weight to enable them to establish an alternative
society milieu.
That is why they may use the troubadours as a totemic reference,
something like an ancestor-worship (rhetorically eloquent rather than
historically accurate) without evincing any desire for specific knowledge
about those ancestors. In fact, what knowledge they have is culled from
Parisian sources rather than homegrown. And that, in turn, is why it will
be a long time before the troubadours, neglected in Paris, will meet with
a better treatment within their own homeland...

Beller, Manfred, and Joep Leerssen, eds. 2007. Imagology. The Cultural Construction
and Literary Representation of national characters. A critical survey. Amsterdam:
Belmont, Nicole. 1995. Aux sources de l’ethnologie française: L’Académie Celtique.
Paris: CTHS.
218 Philippe Martel

De Certeau, Michel, Dominique Julia and Jacques Revel. 1975. Une politique de
la langue. Paris: Gallimard.
Denis, Andrée. 1982. Poésie populaire, poésie nationale. Deux intercesseurs:
Fauriel et Mme de Staël. Romantisme 35: 3-24.
Rieger, Angelika, and Bernadette Schmidt. Der deutsche Beitrag zur
Okzitanistik, 1803-1983. Eine Bibliographie.
Diouloufet, Jean. 1829. Odo a la Muso Prouvençalo. Id., Fablos, contes, epitros e
autros pouesios prouvençalos. Aix.
Fabre d’Olivet, Antoine. 1803. Le Troubadour: Poésies occitaniques du XIIIe siècle.
Fabre d’Olivet, Antoine. 1988. La langue d’oc rétablie, ed. Georg Kremnitz. Wien:
Fauriel, Claude. 1836a. Histoire de la poésie provençale. 3 vols., Paris.
Fauriel, Claude. 1836b. Histoire de la Gaule méridionale sous les conquérants germains.
Fauriel, Claude. 1837. Histoire de la croisade contre les hérétiques albigeois. Paris.
Gardy, Philippe. 1987. L’Occitanie d’Aubin-Louis Millin. Amiras 15-16:
Gatien-Arnoult, Adolphe Félix. 1841. Les Leys d’amor. Toulouse: Académie des
Jeux Floraux.
Géruzez, E. 1852. Histoire de la littérature française du Moyen Age aux temps modernes.
Hroch, Miroslav. 1985. Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe: A Compar-
ative Analysis of the Social Composition of Patriotic Groups among the Smaller Euro-
pean Nations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lafont, Robert. 1982. Le ‘Midi’ des troubadours: Histoire d’un texte. Romantisme
35: 25-48.
Lafont, Robert. 1991. La Geste de Roland. 2 vols., Paris: L'Harmattan.
Lafont, Robert. 1999. Pour rendre à l’oc et aux Normands leur dû: Genèse et
premier développement de l’art épique gallo-roman. Cahiers de civilisation
médiévale 42: 139-178.
Legrand d’Aussy, Pierre Jean-Baptiste. 1781. Observations sur les troubadours. Paris:
Martel, Philippe. 1982. Les historiens du début du XIXème siècle et le Moyen
Age occitan: Midi éclairé, Midi martyr ou Midi pittoresque. Romantisme 35:
Martel, Philippe. 1988. La Revue des Langues Romanes. Romanische Forschungen
100: 246-257.
Martel, Philippe. 1992. Le Félibrige. Les Lieux de Mémoire, ed. P. Nora, 3.2:
567-611. Paris: Gallimard.
Martel, Philippe. 1997. Occitanum est, non legitur. L’estatut de la literatura
occitana dins los manuals de literatura francesa (Sègles XIX e XX). Textes
occitans 2: 71-84.

Martel, Philippe. 2002. Les Cathares et l’histoire. Toulouse: Privat.

Mary-Lafon, Bernard. 1842-45. Histoire politique, religieuse et littéraire du Midi de la
France. 4 vols., Paris: Mellier.
Merle, René. 1990. L’Ecriture du provençal de 1775 à 1840. 2 vols., Béziers: CIDO
Michelet, Jules. 1975 (1833). Histoire de France. Paris: Flammarion.
Milllot, abbé Claude François. 1774. Histoire littéraire des Troubadours. 2 vols.,
Mistral, Frédéric. 1889 (1876). Lis Isclo d’or. Paris.
Nisard, Désiré. 1844. Histoire de la littérature française. Paris.
Raynouard, François. 1816-18. Choix des poésies originales desTroubadours. 3 vols.,
Rochegude, amiral Henri de. 1819. Parnasse occitanien. Toulouse.
Schlegel, August-Wilhelm. 1818. Observations sur la langue et la littérature provençales.
Schlieben-Lange, Brigitte. 1996. Idéologie, Révolution et uniformité de la langue,
Sprimont: Mardaga.
Sismondi, Jean Simonde de. 1821-44. Histoire des Français. 31 vols., Paris.
Trélis, Jean-Luline. 1807. De l’idiome languedocien et de celui du Gard en
particulier, ed. Ph. Martel in Lengas 24 (1988): 101-118
Villemain, Abel-François. 1830. Cours de littérature française. Paris.
EUROPEAN STUDIES 26 (2008): 223-239


Tom Shippey

The poem Beowulf proved to be, from its first publication, a contested
site for nationalist scholarship. Though written in Old English, it
dealt exclusively with Scandinavia and its nearest neighbours. Was the
poem, then, in essence a poema danicum, as its first editor called it? Or
did it emanate from the disputed borderland of Schleswig, where
Low German speakers were still in the nineteenth century under
Danish rule? Interpretation of the poem was affected at every level by
nationalist sympathies, but even more by sub-national and
supra-national sentiments expressed by scholars of divided loyalties,
including pro-German Schleswigers, pro-Danish Icelanders, and
Englishmen such as Stephens and Kemble (respectively pro-Danish
and pro-German, but outstripping all others in intemperate chauvin-
ism). The poem’s early politicisation continues to affect scholarship
to the present day.

Beowulf has now been known to scholarship for almost two hundred
years, and has generated an immense amount of scholarly activity and
publication. In several important respects, though, we are no nearer
certain knowledge than we were at the beginning, and the problems
apparent to the scholars of the 1810s remain problematic in the 2000s. I
will begin, accordingly, by stating first three (I think) incontrovertible
facts about the poem; go on to indicate three areas of general agreement;
and then point to three embarrassing contradictions.
224 Tom Shippey

First, the facts:

– we have only one manuscript of the poem;
– its provenance is unknown;
– it can be dated palaeographically to approximately the year 1000.

Second, the areas of general agreement:

– the poem is in Old English;
– there is general agreement (now) that it must have been a written
composition, and is not a record of an oral epic;
– and there is general agreement (now) that the many references to
God and to Christian belief indicate a securely Christian milieu for

Third, the contradictions, which deny successively the three agreements

just above, in reverse order:
– though there are many references to God, and several to the Old
Testament, there is never any mention of Christ, or the Saviour, or
the Redeemer, or anything similar;
– in the same way, though the poem uses the native verb (for)writan
and the loan-word (ge)scrifan, they never mean ‘to write’, rather ‘to
cut’ and ‘to judge’;
– finally, and most embarrassingly for a potential national epic, there
is no mention in the poem of England, or Britain, or the English,
or the Saxons, or anyone who might be considered English except
for two dubious and marginal figures, Offa and Hengest, both
names known to English history, but both firmly localized within
the poem in Continental Europe. The poem is centred on the
Danes, the Swedes, and the Geats – whom most scholars have
identified with the Gautar or South Sweden.

In brief, our literate Christian English poet has created a poem which is
entirely about illiterate pre-Christian Scandinavians. The poem, and the
events of the poem, do not seem to match each other. We have no con-
text in which to place it.
One result of this is that the poem became, immediately upon
publication, available for appropriation by competing theorists. It also
immediately became a contested site in both a philological, and a geo-

graphical, contested area. I can perhaps illuminate this briefly by inviting

readers to consider three brief quotations.
The first is the title given to the poem in its editio princeps, brought out
in 1815 in Copenhagen by Grímur Jónsson Thorkelín, Étatsraad and
National Archivist first to King Christian VII of Denmark, and then to
King Frederik VI. It is probably significant, on several levels, that
Thorkelin was an Icelander rather than a Dane, though of course Icelan-
ders were then and long remained subjects of the King of Denmark. He
demonstrated his loyalty – and his desire to justify the expenses of his
long stay in England almost thirty years before (see Kiernan 1986, 14-16)
by calling the new poem: De Danorum Rebus Gestis Secul[is] III et IV: Poema
Danicum Dialecto Anglosaxonica.
Ignoring the date and the claim to be a ‘Danish poem’, what did
Thorkelin mean by ‘Dialecto Anglosaxonica’? Lurking in this is the claim
that Anglo-Saxon, or Old English, was just a dialect of Old Norse, of
which Thorkelin, as an Icelander, could claim to be a native speaker. The
claim was useful personally as establishing his editorial credentials. Be-
sides, both languages could be said to be dialects of a common tongue,
sometimes called (for instance by Thorkelin’s opponent N.F.S.
Grundtvig) ‘Gammel-Nordisk’, or ‘Old Nordic’. Since this was also
referred to (in Old Norse) as dönsk tunga, or ‘the Danish tongue’, Anglo-
Saxon could be seen as a dialect of ancestral Danish, which helped to
make the point that it was in every way Poema Danicum. I do not think
that Thorkelin thought any further than that, though later scholars were
to make a serious controversy out of its implications (see, e.g.
Brynjolfsson 1852, discussed below).1
My second quotation is the famous runic inscription from the golden
horn of Gallehus, discovered in 1734, stolen and melted down in 1802,
but with its inscription fortunately recorded: Ek HlewagastiR HoltijaR
horna tawido2
It is agreed that this means, ‘I Hlewagast the Holting made the horn’.
But what language is it in? Professor Hans Frede Nielsen (Nielsen, 2002:
22) translates the inscription into, successively, Old English, Old Norse,
Old Saxon, and Gothic, as follows:

Most of the nineteenth-century works cited here are discussed and excerpted,
with translation into English, in Shippey and Haarder 1998. Translated quotations are
taken from there, unless otherwise stated.
Scholarly convention is to print transcriptions from runic letters in bold.
226 Tom Shippey

Ic hléogiest hylte horn táwode

Ek hlégestr hyltir horn *táða
Ik hleogast hulti horn tóida
Ik hliugasts hulteis haurn tawida

One might say that the only sensible conclusion is that it is in the lan-
guage Prof. Nielsen calls Early Runic. But this was not immediately
apparent. For one thing, it is clear that the letter given by scholars nowa-
days as R, at the end of the second and third words of the inscription, is
not the same as normal runic r, as in ‘horna’. It was read early on as m,
which allowed Karl Müllenhoff (see Nielsen 2002, 15) to read both
words as dative plurals, so that the inscription meant ‘I made the horn
for the Holtings (or Holsteiners), the people of the forest’. But perhaps it
should be transliterated Z? An –r ending on ‘gastir’ would be very like
regular Old Norse gestr. But a –z ending would leave it possible to take
the inscription as Primitive Germanic, or even German, rather than
Norse. Remember that the horns were found no more than ten kilo-
metres from the present Danish-German border, on the Danish side. But
if the inscriptions were in Primitive German, not Norse, then that would
imply that the area had been originally German-speaking, and that Dan-
ish had been imposed on it at some later period. Which, of course, in the
early nineteenth century, many German-speakers in Schleswig-Holstein
thought was exactly what was still happening.
Both the Gallehus horn and the poem of Beowulf accordingly became
involved in the question of Schleswig-Holstein, or Slesvig-Holsten (in
future written in the compromise form of Slesvig-Holstein). See here my
third quotation, a rather longer one. This comes from a letter written by
the Norwegian philologist P.A. Munch (1810-63), and sent to the Copen-
hagen professor George Stephens (1813-95). (I should add that it was
Munch who first suggested the R transliteration for the disputed
Gallehus rune). The letter is dated 27th April 1848, just after the first
clashes of the first Prusso-Danish war, expresses strong support for the
Danes and ends with a remarkable PS:
Aren’t you enthusiastic, by the way, about the Danes’ bravery and strength?

Hwæt we Gar-Dena guð-frumena

þegena and eorla þrym gefrunon!
hu þa æþelingas ellen fremedon!
Sona Scylding sceaðena þreatum

meodosetla oftyhð! monegum mægþum

Seaxna and Pryssa, þara þe sittað
ymbe Fifeldor facen-fulle,
wraðe wærlogan, wod-frecan;
habban willað Hæðaburh, and frumlond
Ongelcynnes; þæt is aglæc þeod.
(Indrebø and Kolsrud, 1924-71, I: 277)
This is of course Old English pastiche.3 The first five lines are based on
Beowulf lines 1-5, though they move into the present tense. Especially
striking, though, is the echo in line 7 of the story of Offa in lines 35-44
of the poem Widsith, who ‘fixed the boundary against the Myrgings bi
Fifeldore, on the Eider: the Engle and Swæfe kept it from then on as Offa
struck it out’. Munch’s point is that the border which was being fought
over in the fourth (?) century, and which seemed to have been settled
then, was still being fought over in the nineteenth, and by what he re-
garded as the same adversaries, the Danes and the Germans. In lines 9
and 10 he was perhaps, in writing to an Englishman, trying to get Eng-
lish support and sympathy (which the Danes of 1848 badly wanted) by
alleging that the Prussians and the Holsteiners were trying to seize ances-
tral England too: not that there was any problem in gaining George
Stephens’s sympathy. His sympathies are well indicated by the title of his
Handbook of the Old-Northern Runic Monuments of Scandinavia and England
(1884) – Stephens meant by this title to claim (a) that England and Scan-
dinavia had a common culture, as shown by their use of the runic alpha-
bet (b) that they had possessed a common language too, indeed
‘Gammel-Nordisk,’ ‘Old-Northern’ (c) that this common culture was not
shared by Germany, which, whatever Wilhelm Grimm or John Kemble
might say, had never used runes or the runic alphabet.4 Munch, in short,
saw Old English poetry as preserving memory of a political situation

The meaning: ‘Lo, we have heard of the power of the warriors of the Spear-
Danes, thanes and nobles, how the princes carried out deeds of valour. Quickly the
Scylding carries off the mead-benches from troops of enemies, from many tribes of
Saxons and Prussians, those who are camped by the Eider, cruel oath-breakers, full of
treachery, mad for war; they want to have Hedeby, and the ancestral land of the Eng-
lish race: that is a monstrous people.’
For Kemble on runes, see Kemble 1840. The essay is famous for giving the first
fairly correct reading of the inscription on the Ruthwell Cross, and for Kemble’s
merciless mockery of the earlier attempts by the Icelanders Thorleifr Repp and Finnur
Magnusson. Just to show that the issue is not dead, the Icelanders have been de-
fended, and Kemble in his turn attacked, by another Icelander, see Fjalldal 2005.
228 Tom Shippey

very similar to that of his own time, and seeing it from the Scandinavian
side. George Stephens’s last work, incidentally, written at the age of
ninety-one, was titled Er Engels en Tysk Sprog? (1894, ‘Is English a Ger-
man Language?’), and the answer was a resounding ‘No!’
One can see that an English poem which was all about Danes was
very welcome, in 1815 and later, to some factions. It showed that the
English were really Scandinavians; and more importantly that their ances-
tral homeland of Angeln, in Slesvig, had also always been Scandinavian,
and should remain so; regardless of the question of Holstein, the Danish
border should run along the river Eider, as in Widsith. Any Slesvigers
who thought different were just being ungrateful. But then they always
had been, as you could see from Beowulf. It is this thought, I think, which
explains Thorkelin’s sudden panegyric on King Hrothgar in his Latin
‘Preface’ to the edition:
Fuit aliis una et vetus causa bellandi, profunda cupido imperii et divitiarum.
HRODGARO longe alia mens fuit. Ut suos ille subditos protegeret, posteris
firmam redderet pacem, et libertatem darit mari, necessum habuit arma
ferre in Jutos, et horum socios Frisones, populos immanes, duros, feros,
barbarosqve, qui tam fidei et honestatis, quam humanitatis et religionis
expertes nihil non ad effrænatæ libidinis sugestionem gerebant. Multa igitur
Regi optimo pericula domi, militiæ multa adversa fuere, qvorum omnia
Deorum auxiliis et virtute suâ superavit: inqve his omnibus, neqve animus
negotio defuit, neqve decretis labos. Malæ secundæqve res opes, non
ingenium mutabant. Qvod bonum, faustum, felixqve esset populo Danico,
semper ante oculos habuit, et jugiter in id ferebatur, ut Jutos et Frisones
Scyldingis conjungeret, horum plebi civitatem daret, primores in patres
legeret, unam gentem, unam rem publicam faceret.5

Thorkelin 1815, xiii-xiv: ‘Others had an old and single motive for making war, the
deep greed for power and riches. Hrodgar was of far different mind. In order to
protect his subjects, restore a lasting peace for his descendants, and give them the
liberty of the sea, he found it necessary to lead an army against the Jutes, and their
associates the Frisians, monstrous people, hard, fierce and barbarous, who, wanting in
faith and honesty no less than in humanity and religion, did nothing unprompted by
their unbridled lust. There were therefore great dangers for this best of kings at home,
and in the field much adversity, all of which he overcame with the help of the Gods
and by his own valour: and in all of this, neither did his courage fail in any hardship,
nor his industry in any decision. Good and bad fortune affected his wealth, but not his
character. He always had before his eyes what was good, favourable and fortunate for
the Danish people, and worked continually to join the Jutes and Frisians together with
the Scyldings, giving citizenship to their common people, appointing their nobility as
senators, making them one people, one state.’

There are two things underlying this passage: an editorial confusion, and
a political motive, the one serving the other. One aspect of the editorial
confusion is this. The monster Grendel is described as an eoten – a rare
word in Old, Middle and even modern English, but used some eight
times in the poem. It was, however, one which Thorkelin understood
well enough, because of its similarity to the Norse-Icelandic word iötunn,
‘giant’. However, the poem also refers some five times, if one accepts
modern editorial decisions, to the tribe of the Jutes, the Eote in Old
English. Unfortunately, the genitive plural of eoten is eoten-a, and the
genitive plural of Eote is Eot-ena. The two are easily confused, and indeed
it seems likely that the Beowulf-scribe himself confused them a thousand
years ago. Moreover, in one of the most confusing ‘digressions’ of the
poem – a paraphrase of a heroic song sung to entertain the company in
King Hrothgar’s hall, lines 1068-1159 – the Eotena, as they have become,
are associated with the Frysan, or Frisians, and in strong opposition to
the Danes. This explains Thorkelin’s account of ‘the Jutes, and their
associates the Frisians, monstrous people’, enemies of the Danes: he
takes Jutes and giants to be the same thing, explaining in an Index that
this is the way people talk about their enemies.
I can, however, see nothing in the poem to explain the remarks about
Hrothgar working continually ‘to join the Jutes and Frisians together
with the Scyldings, giving citizenship to their common people, appoint-
ing their nobility as senators, making them one people, one state’. This, I
think, is contemporary politics. Thorkelin praises Hrothgar for doing
what his master Frederik VI was engaged in doing, namely, trying to
persuade the inhabitants of Slesvig-Holstein, who might well be called
Jutes, that they were actually and in spirit Danes: and trying to draw in at
the same time, NB, another awkward and anomalous group, namely the
North Frisians, in the North Sea islands and along what is now the
Danish-German border. (The conviction that the poet was really thinking
of the North Frisians rather than the more familiar West Frisians lasted
a long time.) Finally, the remark about ‘appointing their nobility as sena-
tors’ looks to me like a reference to the repeated attempts by Danish
kings to deal with an especially troublesome body, the Ritterschaft of
Slesvig-Holstein, which apparently had unusual independence and auton-
This, we might say, is the Danish view of the question, perhaps espe-
cially forceful as coming from another Danish colonial. There was of
230 Tom Shippey

course another view, and it was expressed immediately. The most inter-
esting of the seven reviewers of Thorkelin’s edition (for whom see
Haarder 1988) is Pastor Nicholaus Outzen. He was a Dane. Or, he
ought to have been a Dane: he was a knight of the Dannebrog, and he
was born in Terkelsbøl, which is still (just) inside Denmark. But he spent
much of his life as Pastor in Brecklum, now part of Germany, and he
wrote in German. He wrote also for Kieler Blätter, a journal which was
shut down three years after his review appeared by the Danish authori-
ties for its German-nationalist views. And just to add further uncertainty
to his standpoint, he was an authority on the North Frisian dialects – his
Glossarium der Friesischen Sprache was published posthumously in 1837. I
suspect that Outzen was a precursor of Uwe Lornsen, a North Frisian
from Sylt who argued (a few years later) that the solution to the Slesvig-
Holstein question was to form one united independent multilingual
grand duchy to be called Nordalbingien.
Be that as it may, Outzen saw the problem of the poem which I
outlined at the start very clearly: it was an English poem about Danes.
His solution was very straightforward (Outzen 1816). It was a poem
from North Schleswig, indeed from ancient Angeln, the frumlond
Angelcynnes, as Munch called it. That was why it was in English. And it
appeared to be about Danes. But that was because the inhabitants of
ancient Angeln had been forced to call themselves ‘Danes’, just as he
himself had. The striking thing, to him, was that these ancient North-
Schleswigers distinguished themselves from both the Jutes of Jutland and
the Frisians of the islands, as, he said, they still did. Outzen backed this
up with a string of identifications between places in the poem and places
on the contemporary map, which have found very little favour. But he
did at least offer a solution to the problem of the poem, though it was
one which stemmed from contemporary politics: the poem was a product
of ancient Danish imperialism. Outzen’s view was in effect the mirror-
image of P.A. Munch’s, above.
Outzen’s editor at Kieler Blätter was Friedrich Christoph Dahlmann,
who was at once one of the Göttingen Seven; the dedicatee of Jacob
Grimm’s Deutsche Mythologie, ‘Dahlmann, dem Freunde’; secretary to the
Ritterschaft of Schleswig; and the man who in some views created the
conditions for the second Prusso-Danish war of 1864 (for the last claim,
see Cooley 1949). Dahlmann was also very interested in Beowulf, so inter-
ested that he added his own views to Outzen’s, in the form of editorial

notes; and his view was that Outzen had not gone far enough. His three
main points, which he then developed independently (Dahlmann 1840)
were that the North Schleswig area was urdeutsch (see the arguments over
the Gallehus horn above); that Anglo-Saxon was not a dialect of ‘Old
Nordic’ at all, but a Low German branch of West Germanic; and that the
Danes had entered the area, indeed taken it over, as a consequence of the
mass emigration of the Angles. The poem itself had however been writ-
ten in England on a basis of Continental tradition.
Rather surprisingly, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm did not have very
much to do with these arguments, though of course Jacob was responsi-
ble for the generally-accepted classification of Old English as the north-
ernmost branch of West Germanic, rather than the southernmost branch
of North Germanic, of which more later. Their place was filled for them
by one of Grimm’s most devoted acolytes, the Englishman John Mitchell
Kemble. Kemble has been treated very kindly by English scholars, as the
founding father of their discipline, but I have to say that in my opinion
he became, in the end, clinically insane, and that he was also, from the
start, very reluctant to give credit to other scholars, even when he used
their work. Be that as it may, he set himself in the 1830s to edit this great
English poem, and produced, in quick succession:

– an edition in 1833, which lacked its glossary;

– an excited letter to Grimm immediately thereafter, announcing a new
solution of the poem’s problems of nationality (for which see Wiley
1971, 61-5);
– a second edition of the poem in 1835, still without its glossary and
with the same prefatory matter;
– a treatise in German in 1836 summing up his letters to Grimm;
– and a translation of the poem in 1837, which added the glossary that
should have gone with the editions, and a further preface which com-
pletely retracted his prefaces of 1833 and 1835, saying it was all the
fault of the Danish historians for having misled him.6

It is not surprising that scholars have been confused by him ever since.
But Grimm’s insertion of much of Kemble’s material first into an Ap-
pendix of the 1835 Deutsche Mythologie, and then into the main body of the

For an account of this extremely confused process, see Shippey and Haarder
1998, 29-34, and the excerpted quotations from Kemble in that collection.
232 Tom Shippey

work, as also the fact that the 1835 edition and 1837 translation were the
first productions, in this area, of the ‘philological revolution’, meant that
Kemble’s later views dominated the field for perhaps fifty years.
Kemble’s new idea was this. It had long been noticed that there were
two characters in the poem called Beowulf. One was the hero of the
poem, Beowulf the Geat, grandson of King Hrethel, henchman of King
Hygelac, slayer of monsters. The other was Beowulf the Dane, who
appeared only once, near the start, as the third in a genealogical line of
five (or four) kings, Sceaf – Scyld – Beowulf – Healfdene – Hrothgar.
Kemble argued that this second character was the true hero, not of the
poem, but of the myth from which the poem derived. He was the
culture-hero, the monster-slayer. His exploits had been transferred to the
other Beowulf, and embedded in a historical context of wars between
Danes and Geats and Swedes. But Beowulf, or rather Beowa, was the
important figure, and he was not a hero but a god, and not just a god but
the divine ancestor of the English people. So the poem really was about
the English, who furthermore were entirely German, not just Germanic,
not Scandinavians at all. If they were not to be called ‘Saxons’, which
was the term Kemble preferred, then they were ‘Northalbingians’. But
the poem Beowulf, as it stood, had been appropriated in antiquity by the
Scandinavians, and then again in modern times.
Kemble’s main pieces of evidence for this were, first, a document he
found in Cambridge, which is however far later than the poem – Kemble
commits the errors he often accuses the Danes of making, namely jum-
bling evidence from widely different periods, and also seizing eagerly on
any similarity of names as proving identity (see Wiley 1971, 61-65). Sec-
ondly, and later, he discovered a number of place-names in OE charters
which appear to preserve the names of Beowa and Grendel, sometimes
close together (see Kemble 1849, 416). He also tried to re-read lines
1925-31 of the poem, from the very confusing ‘Modthrytho’ episode, as
showing that Beowulf’s uncle Hygelac was the successor of the Anglian
King Offa, so that the Geats were really Angles from Hedeby, not from
Southern Sweden at all (Kemble 1837, 78-9).7 The idea that the poem
To illustrate the kind of problem the poem set for all its editors: modern editors
assume a very violent change of subject in line 1931, where the generosity of Hygd,
daughter of Hæreþ, the young queen of Hygelac, is suddenly opposed to the murder-
ous and un-queenly behaviour of a legendary lady, Modþryþo (?), whose ways were
reformed by the Anglian hero Offa. Kemble saw a lacuna four lines earlier, took
‘modþryþo’, not unreasonably, as an abstract noun, and concluded that Hygelac’s

was stratified, with its deepest and most original stratum a mythical and
German or Germanic one, overlaid by history, Scandinavianism, and
Christianity, remained dominant in many forms for many years.
One problem with it, though – apart from those just indicated – was
that one fact had been discovered about the events of the poem, and a
most surprising one. The poem is in essence about three royal dynasties,
the Danish Scyldings, the Swedish Scylfings, and the Geatish Hrethlings.
The first two of these are well corroborated by later Scandinavian tradi-
tion, but this knows nothing of the Hrethlings at all. Yet it is the
Hrethlings who are corroborated by evidence from outside the area:
Beowulf’s uncle Hygelac is the same person as the king, variously spelled
and identified, who was killed while making a raid on the Rhine round
about the year 525 AD. The identification had been made as early as
1817, by Grundtvig, and Grundtvig is always given the credit for the
discovery in modern times. However, Grundtvig very characteristically
made the point only in a footnote on p. 285, and he did not bother to
state the really convincing argument, which is that we have, in Gregory
of Tours, in the anonymous Liber Historiae Francorum, and in Beowulf,
three independent accounts which nevertheless corroborate each other:
the Liber’s ‘Attoarii’, for instance, are the Hetware of Beowulf. These points
were made in 1839 by Heinrich Leo, and generally accepted: German
scholars regularly gave the credit to Leo, not Grundtvig. The only
scholar who refused to accept this valuable and indeed unique piece of
information was Kemble. In his 1849 book The Saxons in England (note
the title, one might say a mirror-image of George Stephens’s) he said the
name-similarity was just coincidence. He wrote to Grimm, ‘Beowa, the
god in Angeln, I cannot give him up’ (Wiley 1971, 231).
I mean to bring only two more scholars into this discussion, and they
are Karl Victor Müllenhoff and Gísli Brynjolfsson, one might say a ‘colo-
nial German’ and a ‘colonial Dane’. Müllenhoff dominated the field of
Beowulf studies for the best part of forty years, approximately 1844-84.
One might well say he terrorized it, for he was an extremely forbidding
personality, quite prepared to destroy careers, such as those of Christian

queen, Hæreþ’s daughter, was the murderous lady of legend. She must, therefore, have
married Hygelac after being married to Offa, which to Kemble meant that Hygelac was
Offa’s successor to the Anglian throne, and therefore an Englishman. Since Hygelac
was Beowulf’s uncle, Beowulf could then be claimed as English too. It is characteristic
of Kemble that his 1837 translation does not match the reading of his 1835 edition,
234 Tom Shippey

Grein or the even more unfortunate Hermann Dederich. Editorially, he

was a disciple of Lachmann, and applied the Lachmann methods to Beo-
wulf. His main pupil, and intended successor, was Wilhelm Scherer, who
in 1872 was appointed to a Chair at the University of Strassburg with the
approval of Bismarck, and the avowed intention of strengthening pro-
German sentiment in a disputed and recently regained province. But
Scherer died young, in 1886, only two years after his mentor, and
Müllenhoff’s views on the poem – once he too was safely dead – were
rapidly rejected.
His two main contributions were these. On the one hand Müllenhoff
applied Lachmann’s Liedertheorie to the poem, arguing that it was full of
Widersprechungen or ‘contradictions’, that it must be the work of several
hands at different periods. In the end he identified the work of four
original writers and two increasingly incompetent interpolators, and with
typical certainty assigned each line and half-line of the poem to one or
the other (Müllenhoff 1869). This view was taken further in the years
after his death, for instance by Bernhard ten Brink (1877), who ran the
score of authors up to eleven, but has now been completely rejected: the
modern view is that the poem is completely unified. Müllenhoff’s other
main contribution was to take Kemble’s idea of the poem as not merely
composite but also as stratified a good deal further. He argued that it
was, at bottom, a myth about a semi-divine figure, and furthermore a
kind of allegory (Müllenhoff 1849a and b). This view has not been quite
so firmly rejected, though the view as to what kind of myth or allegory it
is has changed completely.
I have to say that my understanding of the whole issue of the recep-
tion of Beowulf was changed completely by realising that Müllenhoff was
another Holsteiner, indeed a native of Dithmarschen. Müllenhoff was
much too professional and too wary ever to say this explicitly, but it is
my conviction that in his heart he believed, or wanted to believe, that
Beowulf was in fact a product of his native province, the Ditmarsh; and
that if the poem was in Old English, the myth it sprang from had been
spoken in his native language, as it were Proto-Plattdeutsch. Old English
in any case, Müllenhoff would probably have said, was really another
dialect, not of course of ‘Gammel-Nordisk’ as the Scandinavians would
have it, but of ‘Alt-Nieder-Deutsch’.
There are several indications of this underlying belief:

– It is revealing that Müllenhoff’s first publication in this area was his

very long article, ‘Die deutschen Völker an Nord- und Ostsee in
ältester Zeit’, published in – note the journal title – Nordalbingische
Studien for 1844.
– In the following year Müllenhoff brought out the most engaging and
enduring of his publications, his collection Sagen Märchen und Lieder der
Herzogthümer Schelswig Holstein und Lauenburg. And he included in it,
without explanation, a paraphrase of the poem of Beowulf, as no. 345.
Immediately after it he put folktales which he had collected, one or
two of which do indeed appear as analogues of the fight with
Grendel in Heorot.
– In 1849 he brought out two connected articles on ‘Sceaf und seine
Nachkommen’ and ‘Der Mythus von Beowulf’ in Zeitschrift für Deutsches
Alterthum, in which he argued, at great length and quite persuasively,
that the poem’s monsters, especially Grendel and his mother, were
allegories of the great fear of the marshmen: flood. Grendel in partic-
ist der riesische gott oder dämon des wilden düstern meeres um die zeit
des frühlingsäquinoctiums. um diese zeit unternimmt auch Beóvulf mit
Breca seine schwimmfahrt. es wüten die stürme und das meer konnte
sich einst ungehemmt über die weiten flachen küstenländer an der
nordsee ergiessen, wo die bewohner, friesische und sächsische völker-
schaften, auf einsamen warten hausten, Plin. h. n. 16, 1, und wo sie
rettungslos dem wilden elemente preisgegeben waren, wenn nicht ein
gott half; von unglaublichen verwüstungen, von dem untergang vieler
tausende von menschen berichtet noch die leider allzu glaubhafte ge-
schichte dieser gegenden. diesen allerdings auch localen grund, glaube
ich, hat der menschenverschlingende, häuserverwüstende meerriese
Grendel und der ganze mythus.8
I have to say that I am one of the very few Beowulfian scholars now
active who thinks that possibly Müllenhoff might be right. Not that I

Müllenhoff 1849a, 423-424 (capitalization sic): ‘[Grendel] is the gigantic god or
demon of the wild and stormy sea at the time of the spring-equinox. At this time
Beowulf undertakes his swimming expedition with Breca. The storms rage and the sea
could, once it is unchecked, pour over the broad, flat coast-lands of the North Sea,
where the inhabitants, Frisian and Saxon tribes, lived on lonely mounds (Pliny 16, 1),
and where they were helplessly at the mercy of the wild element, if no god came to
their aid; the unfortunately all-too-credible story of these deities still tells of unbeliev-
able devastations, of the death of many thousands of people. I believe that the
man-swallowing, house-smashing sea-giant Grendel, and the whole myth, has this
definitely local basis.’
236 Tom Shippey

think the poem is an allegory, etc., but I do think that scholarly opinion
has become ‘Scandinavianized’, and sees the poem’s landscape in terms
of high moor and mountain tarn, whereas it seems to me to be a boggy
sort of poem, set in the fen: to quote Philip Cardew, the monster
Grendel and his mother are ‘oicotypes of the marsh’ (Cardew 2005, 205).
Müllenhoff’s views extended of course not only to myth and allegory,
to folktale, to Liedertheorie and to the origins of the poem, but also to the
very nature of the English language, and the English nation. As Andrew
Wawn has pointed out (Wawn 1994, 216-217; 2000, 237-239), there was
in the mid-nineteenth century a certain controversy in England over the
nature of the English: were they really Saxons (and so Germans, as
Kemble for instance would have it), or were they really Scandinavians (a
view popular in the North, and often in the manufacturing as opposed to
landowning classes)? The official view on this, still very firmly held and
expressed in British government circles, is that of Sir Walter Scott, name-
ly that there was never any such thing as English: just Saxons and Danes and
Normans, all now happily assimilated, a model for the present and fu-
ture. Nevertheless, the issue was at one time a live one, especially during
the two Prusso-Danish wars, of 1848-50 and 1864 – as we have seen
from Professor Munch’s little poem above.
Thus, in May 1852 George Stephens – Munch’s correspondent –
wrote a long and angry piece in The Gentleman’s Magazine (Stephens 1852),
in which he argued against Grimm’s classification of the Germanic lan-
guages, and declared that English was not West Germanic but South
Scandinavian. Such features as the Scandinavian ‘middle voice’ and suf-
fixed definite article could be found in English dialects too – and
Stephens, it should be remembered, was expert not only in standard
Danish but also in the southern Danish dialects, which, probably errone-
ously, have been thought to be more similar to English than modern
scholars can readily recognize. The last word on this may perhaps be
given to Professor Hans Frede Nielsen, who has shown recently that the
Early Runic language must be considered as the ancestor of Old Norse
alone (Nielsen 2000). But Professor Nielsen also points out a number of
anomalies in Old English, of which I will mention only one: it is the only
Germanic language with two complete present tense paradigms for the
verb ‘to be’, one very similar to the Scandinavian one, and one very
similar to Old Saxon (Nielsen 2000, 222-223). A natural conclusion is
that while a majority of the fifth- and sixth-century emigrants to Britain

were speakers of Anglian, or Saxon, from the south of what would be-
come a linguistic boundary, a large minority were Jutes, from the north
of the boundary (Nielsen 2000, 292-293). The dialects influenced each
other, as English and Danish would do again in later periods.
Gísli Brynjolfsson’s own point, however, was a very telling one,
which is that not only is Beowulf all about Danes and Swedes and Geats,
its characters are also often figures known from Scandinavian legendary
cycles; and – this point severely challenges the Kemble/Müllenhoff
belief in a stratified Anglian-mythological/Scandinavian-historical poem
– the link between monster-slaying and the Skjoldung court is made
independently in the Hrólfs saga kraka (Brynjolfsson 1852). So even if a
‘historical’ element was added to a ‘mythical’ element, the mythical ele-
ment also has connections with Denmark, not with the Ditmarsh. I may
perhaps add as a final coda to this story that in the prevailing twentieth-
century view of the poem, a critical character in it is the silent figure of
Hrothulf, addressed at one point by Hrothgar’s queen Wealhtheow,
though he makes no reply. He is now regularly identified with the saga-
hero Hrólfr kraki; this realization is also largely to the credit of a Danish
writer, Ludvig Schrøder, now almost completely forgotten by scholar-
ship, who wrote in the to him very personal aftermath of the Prusso-
Danish war of 1864 (Schrøder 1875).

What I have tried to show is how the editing of Beowulf and national self-
definitions mutually influenced each other: national feeling influenced
the editing, and editing and interpreting helped to create national, sub-
national, and supra-national feeling, in Denmark, in Germany, in Slesvig,
in Holstein, in Norway (and eventually elsewhere). What has been largely
missing has been, to quote Sherlock Holmes, the strange case of the dog
that did not bark in the night. Was there, and is there, no English senti-
ment about this potentially English national epic? The answer is, effec-
tively, ‘no’. The only English scholars to take a serious interest in the
poem were for many years expatriates like Stephens or Benjamin Thorpe,
or intellectual expatriates like Kemble, widely disliked for his devotion to
everything German. Partly this was caused by the intense amateurishness
of the two English universities, Oxford and Cambridge. In modern times
the need to suppress any feelings of English autonomy in the interests of
unity and the United Kingdom has also been powerful, see Shippey
2000. But Anglo-Saxon England seems never to have rooted itself in the
238 Tom Shippey

national imagination. On the other hand, four movies based on Beowulf

have appeared in recent years.9

Brynjolfsson, Gísli. 1852. Oldengelsk og Oldnorsk. Antikvarisk Tidsskrift 1: 81-
Cardew, Philip. 2005. Grendel: Bordering the Human. In The Shadow-walkers:
Jacob Grimm’s mythology of the monstrous, ed. Tom Shippey, 189-205. Tempe,
AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.
Cooley, Franklin D. 1949. Early Danish Criticism of Beowulf. English Literary
History 7: 45-67.
Dahlmann, F.C. 1840. Geschichte von Dänemark. Hamburg. (Author’s trl. of Dan-
marks Historie, Copenhagen 1840).
Fjalldal, Magnús. 2005. ‘A Lot of Learning is a Dang’rous Thing’: The Ruthwell
Cross Runes and their Icelandic Intepreters. In Correspondences: Medievalism in
Scholarship and the Arts, eds. Tom Shippey and Martin Arnold, 30-50. Wood-
bridge: Boydell.
Grundtvig, N.F.S. 1817. Om Bjovulfs Drape eller det af Hr. Etatsraad
Thorkelin 1815 udgivne angelsachsike Digt. Danne-Virke 2: 207-289.
Haarder, Andreas. 1988. The Seven Beowulf Reviewers: Latest or Last Identifi-
cations. English Studies 69: 289-292.
Indebrø, Gustav and Oluf Kolsrud, eds. 1924-71. Lærde Brev fra og til P.A.
Munch. 3 vols.; Oslo: University of Oslo.
Kemble, J.M., ed.. 1833. The Anglo-Saxon Poems of Beowulf, the Traveller’s Song, and
the Battle of Finnes-burh. London (2nd rev. ed. London, 1835).
Kemnble, J.M., trl. 1837. A Translation of the Anglo-Saxon Poem of Beowulf, with a
Copious Glossary, Preface, and PhilologicalNotes. London.
Kemble, J.M. 1849. The Saxons in England: A history of the English Commonwealth
till the Period of the Norman Conquest. 2 vols.; London.
Kemble, J.M.: see also Wiley 1971.
Kiernan, Kevin. 1986. The Thorkelin Transcripts of Beowulf. Copenhagen: Rosen-
kilde and Bagger.
Leo, Heinrich. 1839. Beowulf, dasz älteste deutsche, in angelsächsischer mundart er-
haltene, heldengedicht. Ein beitrag zur geschichte alter deutscher geisteszustände Halle.
Müllenhoff, Karl Victor. 1844. Die deutschen Völker an Nord- und Ostsee in
ältester Zeit. Nordalbingische Studien 1: 111-174.

They are: Beowulf (directed Graham Baker, 1999); The Thirteenth Warrior (directed
John McTiernan, 1999); Beowulf and Grendel (directed Sturla Gunnarsson, 2006); and
Beowulf (directed Robert Zemeckis, 2007).

Müllenhoff, Karl Victor. 1845. Sagen Märchen und Lieder der Herzogthümer Schelswig
Holstein und Lauenburg. Kiel.
Müllenhoff, Karl Victor. 1849a. Sceaf und seine Nachkommen. Zeitschrift für
Deutsches Alterthum 7: 410-419.
Müllenhoff, Karl Victor. 1849b. Der Mythus von Beowulf. Zeitschrift für Deutsches
Alterthum 7: 419-441.
Müllenhoff, Karl Victor. 1869. Die innere Geschichte des Beovulfs. Zeitschrift
für Deutsches Alterthum 27: 193-244.
Nielsen, Hans Frede. 2000. The Early Runic Language of Scandinavia Heidelberg:
Nielsen, Hans Frede 2002. Guldhornsinskriften fra Gallehus: Runer, sprog, politik.
Odense: Odense University Press.
Outzen, Nicholaus. 1816. Das angelsächsische Gedicht Beowulf, als die schätz-
barste Urkunde des höchsten Alterthums von unserm Vaterlande. Kieler
Blätter 3: 307-327.
Shippey, Tom. 2000. The Undeveloped Image: Anglo-Saxon in Popular Con-
sciousness from Turner to Tolkien. In Literary Appropriations of the Anglo-
Saxons from the Thirteenth to the Twentieth Century, eds. Donald Scragg and
Carole Weinberg, 215-236. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Shippey, Tom, and Andreas Haarder, eds. 1988. Beowulf: the Critical Heritage.
London: Routledge.
ten Brink, Bernhard Konrad Aegidius. 1877. Geschichte der Englischen Literatur.
Erster Band, Bis zu Wiclifs Auftreten. Berlin.
Thorkelín, Grímur Jónsson. 1815. De Danorum Rebus Gestis Secul[is] III et IV:
Poema Danicum Dialecto Anglosaxonica. Copenhagen.
Wawn, Andrew. 1994. The Cult of Stalwart Frith-thjof in Victorian Britain. In
Northern Antiquity: the Post-Medieval Reception of Edda and Saga, ed. Andrew
Wawn, 211-254. Enfield Lock: Hisarlik Press.
Wawn, Andrew. 1995. George Stephens, Cheapinghaven, and Old Northern
Antiquity. In Medievalism in England II, eds. Leslie Workman and Kathleen
Verduin, 63-104. Woodbridge: Boydell.
Wawn, Andrew. 2000. The Vikings and the Victorians: Inventing the Old North in
19th-Century Britain. Woodbridge: Boydell.
Wiley, Raymond A., ed./trl. 1971. John Mitchell Kemble and Jakob Grimm: A Corre-
spondence 1832-52. Leiden: Brill.
EUROPEAN STUDIES 26 (2008): 241-254



Thomas Bein

Nineteenth-century scholars edited the verse of Walther von der
Vogelweide in various ways. Their different methods led to different
text editions, which exerted an interesting influence on the reception
of Walther’s works both in the academic field and in public cultural

Every text’s edition is a component of a society’s cultural foundations. A

case in point is scholarly editing in Germany, which in the first half of
the nineteenth century contributed – more or less intentionally – to the
formation of national concepts. Although the paradigmatic example
chosen here is that of the famous poet Walther von der Vogelweide, it
would be inadmissible to leave the prime example of the Nibelungenlied
unmentioned, if only by way of a preliminary.1
The case has been extensively researched and documented. The dis-
covery of the Hohenemser Nibelungen manuscript in the mid-eighteenth
century and the following printings and editions of parts and of the
whole of the work raised its popularity. ‘Allenthalben suchte man damals
nach dem “Nationalepos”, dem großen Epos, in dem jegliche National-
literatur ihren Identitätsstiftenden Ursprung und Höhepunkt haben
sollte’,2 and finally, such a national epic, supposedly reflecting a German

Cf. Heinzle 1996, Müller 2002, Ehrismann 1987, Göhler 1989, Hoffmann 1992,
Schulze 1997; and especially on the reception history: Heinzle & Waldschmitt 1991.
See 2003, 315: ‘Everywhere, people were searching for the “national epic”, the
major epic in which every national literature was considered to have its identity-build-
ing origin and high-point.’
242 Thomas Bein

cultural tradition, was found – which is remarkable, given the text’s

depressing, pessimistic nature. (The first and the last stanza of the song
mark out, albeit not in all manuscripts, the scope: weinen unde klagen,
crying and complaining.) The text’s social and political triumph was
mainly due to the various Nibelungen editions, which gathered pace
from the late eighteenth century onwards. The following editions came
out in the first third of the nineteenth century in relatively rapid succes-

1807 Friedrich Heinrich von der Hagen: Der Nibelungenlied

1815 August Zeune: Das Nibelungenlied
1815 Johann Gustav Büsching: Das Lied der Nibelungen
1826 Karl Lachmann: Der Nibelungen Not
1827 Karl Simrock: Das Nibelungenlied

Even if the editors’ philological orientations differed considerably, they

all made their contribution to the Nibelungen myth – and mainly because
of their entirely diverse ideas of how medieval texts should be ‘worked
Friedrich Heinrich von der Hagen, the first editor (who presented the
whole text in a strange mixture of Middle High German and Modern
High German), enhanced with his prefaces the national interest in the
text (which, ‘durchaus aus Deutschem Leben und Sinne erwachsen’ he
considers one of the greatest and most admirable of all times) to a high
degree. ‘Kein anderes Lied mag ein vaterländisches Herz so rühren und
ergreifen, so ergötzen und stärken, als dieses’.3 Karl Lachmann stirred up
the fire in his own way, by declaring all existing editions ‘useless’ and
setting himself a goal to bring the oldest extant text as close to the origi-
nal record as was allowed and possible (Lachmann 1960 [1826], v). In
the process two things were accomplished: on the one hand the
Nibelungenlied was introduced to a non-academic readership, charged with
feelings of nationalism; on the other hand, the text was raised to a first-
rate philological object, entailing decades of struggling, even fighting, for
the correct, ‘true’ text as a result.
Against this background it is easier to understand how the poet
Walther von der Vogelweide could rise to the status of ‘singer of the

Hagen 2003, 359: ‘grown from German life and attitude’; ‘No other poem can
thus touch and enrapture, delight and fortify a patriotic heart’.

medieval Reich’ (Richter 1988). What early philology did to the

Nibelungenlied, also happened to Walther a little later – albeit not with the
same intensity.
Participants were, again, Friedrich Heinrich von der Hagen, Karl
Lachmann, Karl Simrock and – joining as a new member – Franz Pfeif-
fer. But the prime instigator in Walther philology was Ludwig Uhland,
who had been working on a major presentation of the poet since 1819,
and published his work in 1822 with the title ‘Walther von der Vogel-
weide, an Old German Poet’ (Uhland 1984). As in the case of the
Nibelungenlied these philologists worked on the restoration of the medi-
eval poet’s texts on different levels and with partly incompatible meth-
ods. What they all have in common is the high regard of the poetry and
the conviction of having a cultural mission. In what follows I shall first
outline Uhland’s initial achievement and then address the other four

Ludwig Uhland
The aim of Uhland’s monograph was to make a contribution to ‘das
Erforschen der altdeutschen Poesie’ (‘exploring Old German Poetry’),
with the ultimate goal to create a ‘lebendiges und vollständiges Bild von
dem dichterischen Treiben jenes Zeitalters’ (‘a living and complete pic-
ture of poetical practices in that period’; Uhland 1984, 31n7). It is the
first well-thought-out and well-structured attempt to describe Walther’s
poetry and its poetical achievement. In a surprisingly sober and detached
mode (by the standards of that time), Uhland analyses the extant texts,
refrains from judging, makes an obvious separation between subjective
opinion and factual description. In nine paragraphs Uhland devotes
himself to Walther’s biography (based on the texts), his poetical appren-
ticeship, his political commitment, his wandering life, the Minnesang with
its various hues, his (alleged) participation in a crusade, his literary-his-
torical position, his religious opinions and the last phase of his life. Near-
ly everywhere Uhland relies on the evidence of Walther’s texts. He pres-
ents these in New High German or in close paraphrases, because his first
priority is to make them understandable. However, Uhland was well
aware of the fact that this procedure would meet with disapproval:
‘Nicht unbekannt ist mir, wie wenig dieses Verfahren bei gründlichen
244 Thomas Bein

Kennern des deutschen Altertums empfohlen ist’.4 Only two years be-
fore, Jacob Grimm had written to Karl Lachmann: ‘Uhland ist einer der
guten neuen Dichter, aber im Altdeutsch wohl ungelehrter als Köpke’.5
In the second paragraph of his monograph Uhland characterises
Walther as a ‘Vaterlandsdichter’ (‘patriotic poet’):
Wir haben die schmerzliche Klage des Dichters über den Verfall von
Deutschland vernommen. Es hat uns daraus eine seiner schönsten
Eigenschaften angesprochen, die Vaterlandsliebe. Dieses edle Gefühl ist die
Seele eines bedeutenden Teils seiner Dichtungen. Überall erregt es ihn zu
der lebhaftesten Teilnahme an den öffentlichen Angelegenheiten. Ihm
gebührt unter den altdeutschen Sängern vorzugsweise der Name des va-
terländischen. Keiner hat, wie er, die Eigentümlichkeit seines Volkes er-
kannt und empfunden.6
This characterization of Walther by Uhland was to influence literary
history-writing as well as monograph studies for more than a century and
a half, with the period of National Socialism – when Walther counted as
a ‘Vorkämpfer deutscher Gesinnung’ (‘a champion of German-minded-
ness’) – undoubtedly presenting the most inglorious highlight (see Bein
1993). Still, it is not Uhland who should be blamed for the anachronistic
connection between the literary and political conditions of the Middle
Ages and the nineteenth century.

Karl Lachmann and the poet’s ‘dignified character’

It is well known that Karl Lachmann ranks equal with the Grimm Broth-
ers as a founding father of German philology. The discipline was basi-
cally founded by this triumvirate. The Grimms and Lachmann were
linked by a deep personal friendship; and the philological interests and
the ethical conception of this kind of scholarship were rooted as deeply
as this friendship. This mixture of private and philological matters is
obvious in numerous letters, mixing scholarly discussions, scolding of

Uhland 1984, 33n7: ‘I am aware of the fact that this method is not recommended
by the experts of the German antiquity’.
Leitzman 1927, 1: 238, ‘Uhland is a brilliant new poet, but in the Old German
probably more uneducated than Köpke.’
Uhland 1984, 42n7 and 48ff.: ‘We heard the poet’s painful complaint about Ger-
many’s decline. What appealed to us here was one of his most beautiful qualities, the
love of his fatherland. This noble emotion is the soul of an important part of his
poetry. It excites him everywhere to the liveliest participation in public matters.
Among all the Old German singers he deserves the name of patriotic singer. No one
recognised and felt his people’s peculiarities the way he did.’

colleagues, and private matters such as the raging cholera epidemic: ‘Die
Cholera hat mir keine Angst gemacht, weil ich sogleich theils den
Glauben an die Contagiosität aufgegeben hatte, theils die ruchlose
Meinung womit sich viele auf kurze Zeit gesichert haben, sie treffe nur
den Pöbel.’7
In a constant interchange the three scholars set out to refurbish the
discipline’s foundation. This implies on the one hand differentiating and
describing the historical gradations of the language starting with Gothic
and Old Saxon, and continuing with Old and Middle High German until
Early New High German (as per Jacob Grimm’s ‘German Grammar’);
and on the other hand examining und securing the textual culture of the
Middle Ages, involving scholarly editing.
In matters of editorial method it is Lachmann who sets the tone. He
transfers his text-critical expertise, based on his experience in classical
philology (regarding which, cf. Lachmann 1876), to the Middle High
German textual culture. His strong belief in the possibility of establishing
a stemma, which at least leads to the archetype if not to the original, will
dominate German philology for decades. Besides, all three founders are
connected by the strong conviction that a (literary) text in the course of
its handwritten tradition steadily suffers losses, for which the persons
involved in the transmission process are to blame: heedless copyists,
philistines, arbitrary patrons and so on. There is a fundamental mistrust
of the text in its diverse handwritten manifestations. The early philolo-
gists of Grimm’s and Lachmann’s type see themselves as the poets’
advocates, who help them get back their very own words. They do this
with the help of text-healing operations, called corrections and conjec-
tures. A conjecture is an ‘assumption’, which means that a considerable
part of the process is speculation. But that is exactly what is demanded
and appreciated as a special ‘scientific achievement’ in the discipline’s
early phase.
Even today, Lachmann’s Walther edition is regarded as one of his
best editorial performances. This reputation was established immediately
after its first and second editions, not least because of the high esteem
from the brothers Grimm. In 1827, Jacob Grimm wrote to Lachmann:

Leitzmann 1927, 579n10: ‘I was not afraid of the cholera, because on the one
hand I have begun to dismiss the belief in contagion and on the other hand the das-
tardly opinion, that it would happen only to the rabble, an opinion with which a lot of
people secured themselves for a short time’.
246 Thomas Bein

‘Nun Ihr Walther gefällt mir sicher, die arbeit ist reinlich, gedrängt, be-
stimmt, es wird ihr kaum was anzuhaben sein.’ (‘Well I truly like your
Walther, the work is clean, concise, firm, there will hardly be anything
that can be said against it’). Grimm criticises Lachmann only on one
point: ‘Ich wollte, Sie hätten bei Gelegenheit dieses buchs sich über das
metrische näher herausgelassen, doch weiß ich nicht, was Sie damit
vorhaben; aber den lesern wirds schwer werden, Sie zu errathen und zu
Lachmann’s work is ‘hard’ philology. One can almost see him suffer
when he discovers misprints in his works. Frequently it upsets him so
much that he has to talk about it to friends at once. Thus he writes to
Moritz Haupt in 1843: ‘Der elende Setzer hat meinem Walther doch
mehr geschadet als ich dachte. S. 45,27 steht und für unde, S.82,23 dar für
har [etc.]’.9
Lachmann’s Walther edition quickly obtained the status of the bench-
mark, truly scientifically philological edition. It is part of what would
later come to be called the ‘Berlin School’ of ‘Lachmannians’, who
adopted the patriarch’s methodical heritage and often applied it much
more rigorously than Lachmann himself. It is no surprise that in 1880
Willibald Leo characterised Lachmann’s edition as follows:
Es ist die eigentliche Editio princeps Walthers von der Vogelweide und gilt
mit Recht als eine der besten Leistungen Lachmanns. Der Herausgeber
verwendete seine ganze Kraft darauf, eine mustergültige Ausgabe zu schaf-
fen, und dies ist ihm auch von seinem Standpunkte aus vollkommen ge-
But Leo also emphasises that Lachmann’s edition is ‘nur für Gelehrte
berechnet’ (‘only intended for scholars’), alongside other philologists who
popularised the poet. One of these philologists who surely deserves to be
mentioned in this context is Franz Pfeiffer, whose edition, according to
Leo, finally enabled Walther von der Vogelweide to find his way back

Leitzmann 1927 517n10: ‘I wish you would have taken this opportunity to say
more about the metrical aspects; I do not know what you intentions are in that regard,
but it will be hard for the readers to guess and understand you.’
Vahlen 1892, 188: ‘The miserable typesetter did more harm to my Walther than I
thought he would. On page 45,27 the text reads und instead of unde, on page 82,23 dar
instead of har [etc.]’.
Leo 1971, 14ff:: ‘This is the real editio princeps of Walther von der Vogelweide and
rightly counts as one of Lachmann’s best performances. The editor used his whole
strength to create a exemplary edition and from his point of view he fully succeeded’.

into the heart of the German nation. ‘Man sagt nicht zu viel, wenn man
Pfeiffers Werk ein Epochemachendes nennt.’11

Karl Simrock: Walther in Poetic Renewal

Prior to Pfeiffer, the aim of bringing Walther closer to a non-scholarly
audience and to actually popularise his poetry had also been pursued by
Lachmann’s erstwhile student Karl Simrock (1802-1876). Simrock de-
voted himself intensely to the poetic translation of medieval texts, a
translation which ought to show a peculiar aesthetic. In 1833 he pub-
lished his Walther rendition, based on Lachmann’s text (Simrock 1833).
It was reprinted repeatedly into the early twentieth century, which is an
indication of the enterprise’s great success. In contrast to Lachmann
Simrock was aware of the necessity (and the scholar’s task) to impart
cultural knowledge beyond academia. In his opinion, medieval literature
should not only be a matter of a few insiders with a good command of
Old and Middle High German. These texts were important to all people
interested in literature, culture and art. The majority of them did not
have the necessary historical-linguistic expertise, nor was there any realis-
tic hope that they would learn their own ancient language (Simrock 1833,
Vorrede, note 18).

Friedrich von der Hagen: Pioneer and Amateur

Hagen12 delivered a truly gigantic editorial performance with his Minne-
singer: Deutsche Liederdichter des zwölften, dreizehnten und vierzehnten Jahrhunderts
(1838). For the first time it was possible for a wider audience to take
note of the richness of Middle High German poetry. Even today, nearly
two centuries later, his edition remains the only one for some texts. Von
der Hagen worked idiosyncratically. For that reason he was often repri-
manded, especially by the Grimms and by Lachmann – who were in
league here as usual. Two examples may illustrate this. In 1831 Lach-
mann wrote to Jacob Grimm:
Die Arbeit [i.e. the ‘Minnesinger’ edition] hat mich doch überrascht durch
ihre unerwartete Schlechtigkeit: sie ist im Ganzen grade so gut wie ich sie

Leo 1971, 16: ‘One does not say too much, when one calls Pfeiffer’s work an
epoch-making achievement’.
Cf. Hagen 1838; see also Grunewald 1988.
248 Thomas Bein

1816 gemacht hätte. (...) Wenn bei Hagen nicht alles Lüge wäre, so könnte
er viel mehr leisten.13
And one year later a withering comment followed (characteristic in its
combination of editorial punctilio and judgemental harshness) on
Hagen’s philological competence: ‘Auch ich habe inzwischen den
Verdruß gehabt zu sehn daß Hagen Walth. 106,21 hat treffe drucken
lassen, mit der Note “vermutlich ist zu lesen reife”. Wer das kann, dem ist
beinah nichts mehr zuzurechnen’.14
Nowadays Hagen’s achievements are judged quite differently. His
editorial concept is very similar to the ones that are used more and more
today. He largely does without reconstruction, which is frequently com-
mitted to aesthetic principles, and instead devotes himself intensely to
the wording of the actual textual sources (mainly the Codex Manesse).
Hagen gives detailed information and comments concerning his editorial
procedure. His interventions, including his thoughts on phonetic (and
orthographic) normalisations, his grammatical and dialectological as well
as his metrical discussions, are of great interest, too. He follows the ‘prin-
ciple of a leading manuscript’, does not insert many conjectures and
rejects any method of extensive mixed-editing: ‘bei mehreren Hand-
schriften habe ich vornämlich immer nur eine, und versteht sich, die
älteste und beste, so viel als möglich, zum Grunde gelegt, und die
übrigen nur zu Hülfe gerufen’.15
With his edition of the ‘Nibelungenlied’, Hagen had already pursued
a patriotic aim; the same applies to his Minnesinger edition. As he pointed
out in his dedicatory preface to the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III,
he intended it as of the ancient ‘Herrlichkeit des Deutschen Vaterlandes’
(‘glory of the German fatherland’; Hagen 1838, 111). Among the many
poets in his edition, Walther von der Vogelweide takes the most promi-

Leitzmann 1927 579n10: ‘The work surprised me by its unexpected inferiority: in
its entirety it is just as good as I would have done it in 1816. […] If Hagen’s work
would consist of more than just lies, he could achieve much more’.
Ibid. 588n10: ‘In the meantime I have also had the displeasure of seeing that
Hagen has printed treffe in Walth. 106,21 with the note “probably one can read reife”.
You can’t expect anything from someone who is capable of such a thing’. It should be
pointed out that treffe had been given as a conjecture by Lachmann in his 1827 edition.
Quoted Richter 1988, 111n6: ‘In case of several manuscripts I usually took for
my basis only one, of course the oldest and best, as far as possible, and used the others
for support.’

nent position, because Walther had struggled for the honour of medieval
Germany and the Holy Roman Empire.
With von der Hagen’s gigantic collection of poetry (including
Walther), with Karl Lachmann’s severe philological edition and with
Simrock’s poetic renewal sources had been made available rendering
access to Walther von der Vogelweide for all types of readership. The
only thing that was missing was a counterbalance to Lachmann, a synthe-
sis between philology and popularisation. This was achieved by Franz

Franz Pfeiffer: Against Academic Pedantry

Franz Pfeiffer (1815-1868), professor of German linguistics and litera-
ture in Vienna, quickly became the academic antagonist to the Lach-
mannianer. He moved into position against Lachmann’s so-called ‘song-
theory’ (to the effect that the Nibelungenlied was a cluster of independent
cantos) and against Lachmann’s edition. With his students and support-
ers, Pfeiffer engaged in a polemic regarding the question to what extent
a philologist should address a non-professional audience (Krohn 1994).
In Pfeiffer’s opinion, as in Simrock’s, the editor had to offer more than
‘naked’ philology à la Lachmann. Because of this attitude he was accused
of vulgarisation. But Pfeiffer defended his conviction with enthusiasm;
witness the eloquent preface to his 1864 Walther von der Vogelweide
Pfeiffer’s basic aim is to bring certain poems of the middle ages
closer to the present-day German nation. In his opinion none of the
earlier editions fulfilled this main purpose. Pfeiffer intensely reprimands
an editorial tendency (on the increase since the 1830s) to confine oneself
to the production of a ‘critical text’, denouncing ‘jene Reihe glänzender
kritischer Ausgaben, die in Abwesenheit aller und jeder Erklärungen
ihren Stolz setzen und dafür in einem Schwall ungenießbarer Lesarten
ein seliges Genügen finden’.16 According to Pfeiffer this was the reason
why only a small group of teachers and students took note of medieval
German texts. ‘Man darf sagen, daß gegenwärtig kaum jemand mehr ein

Pfeiffer 1877 [1864], ix: ‘that series of brilliant critical editions, which take pride
in not providing any explanation and instead indulge lavishly in a flood of unpalatable
250 Thomas Bein

altdeutsches Buch kauft und liest, als wer muß, d.h. wer durch seinen
Beruf dazu veranlaßt und genöthigt ist.’17
Pfeiffer pursued his fight against this development by bringing to life
a new series of editions: the ‘German Medieval Classics’. He dedicated
the first volume to the poetry of Walther von der Vogelweide, which he
wanted to make accessible to a greater audience by putting the main
emphasis on the commentary.
Da unsere Sammlung sich zum Ziele gesetzt hat, die Theilnahme der Ge-
bildeten für die mittelhochdeutsche Literatur zu gewinnen, genauere
Kenntnisse der alten Sprache aber nur bei den Wenigsten vorausgesetzt
werden kann, so mußte vor allem auf jene weit überwiegende Zahl von
Lesern Rücksicht genommen werden, ‘die vom Altdeutschen gar nichts
Pfeiffer’s concept was very successful. After one year the first edition
had already sold out and a second one was printed. In the preface to this
second edition Pfeiffer proclaims, with obvious pride, the success of his
approach. At the same time he takes the opportunity to cross swords
with the ‘so-called critical school’. He reacts to fierce criticism from the
Berlin school by levelling a few polemic swipes himself. He emphasizes
that ‘die [Berliner] Schule nicht nur keine Ahnung hat von dem, was
unsere Ausgaben wollen, sondern daß ihr auch vollständig die Fähigkeit
gebricht, in einfacher verständlicher Weise lehrend und unterrichtend vor
die Gebildeten unsers Volks zu treten’.19
Pfeiffer was confirmed by the success of his edition, which was reis-
sued seven times until 1911, with several reprints following even after-
wards. It is true that he could not oust the Berlin School – after all Lach-
mann’s Walther edition maintained its canonical status and remained in
print until recently – but Pfeiffer and his edition occupied an important
market position, and deservedly so. Every editor has to carefully ask

Ibid.: ‘One can say that nowadays hardly anyone buys and reads an Old-German
book, except when those who must, i.e. those who are professionally required to do
Ibid., xii: ‘Since our collection intends to inspire interest among educated people
in Middle High German literature, but can only assume a few of these to have a
thorough command of the old language, it is necessary to show consideration for that
majority of readers “who do not understand a single word of Old German”.’
Ibid. xvii: ‘the Berlin school is not only ignorant of what our editions intend, but
it is also absolutely incapable of teaching our nation’s educated classes in an under-
standable way’.

himself, for what purpose he edits and which audience his edition is
meant to reach. These questions are of a surprising topicality. In a similar
way as in Pfeiffer’s time, one cannot assume today that German students
have the linguistic abilities to deal with ‘naked’ Middle High German
texts on their own. That is why in the first half of the twentieth century
numerous editions with translations and comments were published. Very
influential in this respect was Friedrich Maurer: he shaped the picture of
Walther for many generations of students (Maurer 1955-56, with a new
edition Maurer 1972). Meanwhile, the Reclam publishing house offers a
complete edition with translation and comments (Schweikle 1994-98),
and even the ‘most philological’ of all Walther editions, published by De
Gruyter in the Lachmann-von Kraus-Cormeau tradition, will include
several ‘additions’ in the next edition, in which I myself am involved.
These ‘additions’ (commentaries, translations and so on) ought to sim-
plify the reception for unpractised readers.

To conclude: In the first half of the nineteenth century, in various differ-

ent places and with different methods and aims, a corpus of sources was
retrieved that could be used for widely different purposes. The early
philologists were aware of the fact that the texts and authors they de-
voted their work to played important roles in many attempts to recon-
struct a cultural (and political) tradition for the ‘German nation’. That
this involved real trench wars between divergent philological schools did
no harm. On the contrary: the issue appeared all the more important the
harder one was fighting for the right ways to deal with it. This applies
not only to the long-lasting quarrel about the genesis and best presenta-
tion of the Nibelungenlied but also to the quarrel about the appropriate
method of editing Walther and the most ‘authentic’ way of reconstruct-
ing his work, based on the manuscripts. The Nibelungenlied was ‘talked
about’; Walther was ‘talked about’. Learned philologists were able to
hunt around in cleverly thought-out critical apparatuses and variant
listings, while at the same time grammar school pupils were also offered
some Walther verse for their perusal. German classes in school tended to
become lessons about cultural roots and traditions. In such an environ-
ment it is not astonishing that Walther soon acquired the status of a
mythical figure.
On the basis of his political poetry he was styled the ‘singer of the
medieval Reich’ (cf. Richter 1988, note 6). The narrator in his texts was
252 Thomas Bein

understood to be identical with the real-life author, without any distinc-

tion. That is why it seemed as if Walther personally intervened and deter-
mined the fate of the ‘German empire’, defending its secular power
against the clergy and glorifying German men and women beyond all
In this context the reception of Walther’s so called ‘praise-song’ plays
an important role. This song, which does have chauvinistic features,
glorifies the German people, stating that even after having seen many
parts of Europe, nowhere can one find such outstanding human qualities
as in Germany. This song and its a-historical reading established
Walther’s fame as a ‘patriotic singer’, as a visionary pioneer for German
virtues. It comes as no surprise, then, that Heinrich Hoffmann von
Fallersleben in his famous Lied der Deutschen (‘Song of the Germans’,
1841: ‘Deutschland, Deutschland über alles’) fell back on Walther’s
‘praise-song’. In 1922 this ‘Song of the Germans’ was declared the Ger-
man national anthem by Friedrich Ebert (Brunner et al 1996, 236-40).
The name of Hoffmann von Fallersleben brings us back to our focus
period – the first half of the nineteenth century. Philology – at times
clearly politically motivated – freed Walther’s texts from their manuscript
limbo and published them – in the literal sense of the word: bringing
them before a public. In the many-faceted cultural and political search
for roots and unity, these new accessible texts filled an obvious need. In
the early nineteenth century the basis was established for what was to
find its inglorious apex in National Socialism: ‘Whoever touches Walther
von der Vogelweide, touches the deepest nerve of the German-nation’s
character.’ That was how Conrad Arnold Bergmann, professor of history,
literature and education, pointed out the poet’s ‘living significance’ in
1933, ‘during the contemporary days of national crisis’ (Bergmann 1933,
1). In those days, Walther was called a ‘real German’ (Friedrich Panzer,
1934), a ‘speaker and admonisher’ (Herta Gent, 1938), ‘the highest blos-
som of the Teutonic branch’ (Wilhelm Dilthey, 1933), the ‘oldest voice
crying for national renewal’ (Kurt Jacob, 1935), the ‘courageous cham-
pion of freedom and right, truth and human dignity’ (Franz Rolf
Schröder, 1930), a ‘priest and ruler, poet, judge and prophet’ and the
medieval Reich’s ‘poetical evangelist’ (Hans Naumann, 1934), an origina-
tor ‘of a very German purview’ (Friedrich Neumann, 1942), a prophet ‘of
centuries of German fate’ (Friedrich Knorr, 1941), a ‘pioneer of
Christian-national thinking’ (Conrad Arnold Bergmann, 1933), an author-

ity on the ‘German task’ (Hans Teske, 1935) and a ‘secular collector of
forces beyond time, which shaped the German character for ever and
always’ (Hans Böhm, 1942).20
Fortunately these times of politically-motivated distortions and trav-
esties of literary history are over. Both the Nibelungenlied and Walther von
der Vogelweide have survived the distortion of meanings and misinter-
pretations of Nazi Germanistik, and can nowadays be explored for what
they are: important heirlooms of the textual culture of the thirteenth

Bein, Thomas. 1993. Walther von der Vogelweide: Ein ‘unheimlich naher Zeit-
genosse’: Werkprofil und nationalsozialistische Mißdeutung. Leuvense Bij-
dragen 82: 363-381.
Bergmann, Conrad Arnold. 1933. Walther von der Vogelweide: Lehrer und Führer des
deutschen Volkes. Freiburg i.Br: Herder.
Brunner, Horst et al. 1996. Walther von der Vogelweide: Epoche, Werk, Wirkung.
München: Beck.
Ehrismann, Otfrid. 1987. Nibelungenlied: Epoche, Werk, Wirkung. München: Beck.
Grunewald, Eckhard. 1988. Friedrich Heinrich von der Hagen, 1780-1856: Ein
Beitrag zur Frühgeschichte der Germanistik. Berlin/New York: De Gruyter.
von der Hagen, Friedrich Heinrich. 1838. Minnesinger. Deutsche Liederdichter des
zwölften, dreizehnten und vierzehnten Jahrhunderts. 4 vols.; Leipzig.
von der Hagen, Friedrich Heinrich. 2003. Der Nibelungen Lied. In Heinzle et
al., 359-60.

Documentation and source-referencing of all these quotations in Bein 1993. The
original German phraseologies: ‘echter Deutscher’ (Friedrich Panzer, 1934), ‘Sprecher
und Mahner’ (Herta Gent, 1938), ‘die höchste Blüte des germanischen Zweiges’
(Wilhelm Dilthey, 1933), der ‘älteste[] Rufer nach völkischer Erneuerung’ (Kurt Jacob,
1935), eine ‘Symphonie von deutschen Tönen’ (Hans Naumann, 1935), ‘der uner-
schrockene Vorkämpfer für Freiheit und Recht, für Wahrheit und Menschenwürde’
(Franz Rolf Schröder, 1930), ‘Priester und Herrscher, Dichter, Richter und Prophet’
(Hans Naumann, 1934), Urheber ‘eine[r] Welt deutschester Umschau’ (Friedrich
Neumann, 1942), ‘dichterischer “Evangelist des Reichs”’ (Hans Naumann, 1934),
Seher ‘deutsche[n] Schicksal[s] von Jahrhunderten’ (Friedrich Knorr, 1941), ‘Vor-
kämpfer (...) des christlich-völkischen Denkens’ (Conrad Arnold Bergmann, 1933),
Erkenner des ‘deutschen Auftrag[s]’ (Hans Teske, 1935), ‘zeitliche[r] Sammler
überzeitlicher Kräfte, die deutsches Wesen je und je geformt haben’ (Hans Böhm,
Many thanks to Esther Ehlen (Aachen) for the English translation of this article.
254 Thomas Bein

Heinzle, Joachim; Anneliese Waldschmitt. 1991. Die Nibelungen, ein deutscher

Wahn, ein deutscher Alptraum: Studien und Dokumente zur Rezeption des
Nibelungenstoffs im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert. Frankfurt/M: Suhrkamp.
Heinzle, Joachim. 1996. Das Nibelungenlied: Eine Einführung. Frankfurt/M:
Heinzle, Joachim et al., eds. 2003. Die Nibelungen. Sage, Epos, Mythos. Wiesbaden:
Hoffmann, Werner. 1992. Nibelungenlied. Stuttgart: Metzler.
Göhler, Peter. 1989. Das Nibelungenlied. Erzählweise, Figuren, Weltanschauung,
literaturgeschichtliches Umfeld. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.
Krohn. Rüdiger. 1994. ... daß alles allen verständlich sey. Die Altgermanistik
des 19. Jahrhunderts und ihre Wege in die Öffentlichkeit. In Wissenschafts-
geschichte der Germanistik im 19. Jahrhundert, ed. Jürgen Fohrmann et al., 264-
333. Stuttgart: Metzler.
Lachmann, Karl. 1876. Kleinere Schriften zur classischen Philologie, ed. J. Vahlen.
Lachmann, Karl. 1960 [1826]. ‘Vorrede’. In Der Nibelunge Noth und die Klage.
Nach der ältesten Überlieferung mit Bezeichnung des Unechten und mit den Ab-
weichungen der gemeinen Lesart, ed. K. Lachmann. Berlin.
Leitzmann, Albert (ed.). 1927. Briefwechsel der Brüder Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm mit
Karl Lachmann. Jena: Frommann.
Leo, Willibald. 1971 [1880] Die gesammte Literatur Walther’s von der Vogelweide:
Eine kritisch-vergleichende Studie zur Geschichte der Walther-Forschung. New ed.
Erich Carlsohn; Niederwalluf: Sändig.
Maurer, Friedrich (ed.). 1955-56. Die Lieder Walthers von der Vogelweide. 2 vols.;
Tübingen: Niemeyer.
Maurer, Friedrich (ed.). 1972. Walther von der Vogelweide. Die Lieder. München:
Müller, Jan-Dirk. 2002. Das Nibelungenlied. Berlin: Schmidt.
Pfeiffer, Franz (ed.). 1877 (1864). Walther von der Vogelweide. 5th ed. by Karl
Bartsch; Leipzig.
Richter, Roland. 1988. Wie Walther von der Vogelweide ein ‘Sänger des Reiches’ wurde.
Eine sozial- und wissenschaftsgeschichtliche Untersuchung zur Rezeption seiner
‘Reichsidee’ im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert. Göppingen: Kümmerle.
Schweikle, Günther, ed. 1994-98. Walther von der Vogelweide, Werke: Gesamt-
ausgabe. Stuttgart: Reclam.
Schulze, Ursula. 1997. Das Nibelungenlied. Stuttgart: Reclam.
von See, Klaus. 2003. Das Nibelungenlied: Ein Nationalepos? In Heinzle et al.,
Simrock, Karl (trl.). 1833. Gedichte Walthers von der Vogelweide, übersetzt von Karl
Simrock und erläutert von Wilhelm Wackernagel. 2 vols.; Berlin.
Uhland, Ludwig. 1984. Werke. Band IV. Wissenschaftliche und poetologische Schriften,
politische Reden und Aufsätze, ed. Hartmut Fröschle & Walter Scheffler, 31-
108. München: Artemis & Winkler.
Vahlen, J. (ed.). 1892. Karl Lachmanns Briefe an Moriz Haupt. Berlin.
EUROPEAN STUDIES 26 (2008): 255-269



Herman Brinkman

The German poet/philologist Hoffmann von Fallersleben (1798-
1874) was celebrated during his lifetime for his pioneering work on
medieval Dutch literature; after his death his philological merits were
questioned. This article attempts to place Hoffmann’s pioneering
work in perspective, taking into consideration his objectives in
searching, listing and editing medieval Dutch folk song. Special atten-
tion is given to discrepancies between his research strategies in Ger-
many and in the Netherlands. A muted response to his several ap-
peals to Dutch literati to forward samples of medieval song, as well
as his literary taste and preconceptions about what he believed was
the extinction of a native song culture in Holland, prevented Hoff-
mann from recording the living heritage of folk song in the Nether-
lands. Hoffmanns views as an editor are also discussed with respect
to his other, less academic objective: restoring medieval folk song to

The German romantic poet and philologist Heinrich Hoffmann von

Fallersleben (1798-1874) was one of the first scholars, and arguably the
most important one, who took an interest in the Dutch literature of the
Middle Ages for other than purely linguistic or historical reasons. During
three phases in his life he paid scholarly visits to the Netherlands. Apart
from an early trip to the Walloon provinces of present-day Belgium, the
first stay took place in the year 1821. After that he returned three times
during 1836-1839, and once again, from 1854-1856 for three consecutive
years (Poettgens 1993, 20-23). The results of these philological under-
256 Herman Brinkman

takings found their expression in twelve volumes which were published

between 1830 and 1862 as Horae belgicae (Hoffmann von Fallersleben
1830-1862; see the appendix to this article). The importance of his pio-
neering work, which led the way to a new appreciation of Dutch medi-
eval literature, was fully recognized both during his lifetime, and after his
death, both in the Netherlands as in Belgium. Various papers and mono-
graphs that were dedicated to him, whether they highlighted the poet, his
encouragement of the Flemish Movement or the philologist, all point at
the official tokens of honour he obtained: a doctorate honoris causa at the
University of Leiden (1823), the bestowal of a royal gold medal (1836),
the appointment as Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion (1856) and
the honorary membership of the Society of Dutch Literature (1865) (De
Raaf 1943; Logghe 1991; Poettgens 1993).

Changing Appreciation
In view of this recognition, it seems remarkable that the light shed on
Hoffmann’s achievements in the one great monument of Middle Dutch
philology, the Middelnederlandsch Woordenboek (MNW, Dictionary of Mid-
dle Dutch) is of quite a different nature. In the volume Bouwstoffen, which
presents detailed analyses of the sources used for the dictionary, paleog-
rapher Willem de Vreese, a man of undisputed standing, provided judge-
ments on the quality and reliability of the printed sources (Verwijs and
Verdam 1927-1952). His comments on Hoffmann’s editions speak for
themselves: ‘Een zeer willekeurig gewijzigde herdruk (...) die niet zonder
fouten is’; ‘een philologisch nauwelijks bruikbare uitgave’; ‘onbetrouw-
baar’; ‘philologisch nauwelijks briuikbaar’; ‘vrijwel onbruikbaar’.1 It is
hard to imagine a greater contrast between these words and the praise
that Hoffmann received during his lifetime.
Apparently after Hoffmanns death a change in the appreciation of his
scholarly work had taken place. When Matthias de Vries, initiator of the
Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal (WNT, Dictionary of the Dutch Lan-
guage) published the first installments of a dictionary of Middle Dutch,
an undertaking which he soon afterwards was forced to abandon, he
dedicated his work in progress to Hoffmann, writing: ‘Aan niemand

Verwijs and Verdam 1927-1952, art. 606.1a, 1b, 5b, 6, 8a: ‘A very arbitrarily
altered reprint which is not without mistakes’; ‘A philologically hardly serviceable
edition’; ‘unreliable’; ‘philologically barely of use’; ‘hardly useful’.

heeft ons Vaderland voor de kennis en waardering zijner letterkunde uit

de middeleeuwen hoogere verplichting dan aan U’.2
It is all the more remarkable therefore, that Jacob Verdam, who was
to take up and fulfill the enormous task of writing the MNW, omitted
this dedication, replacing it by a dedication to Matthias de Vries, and
leaving no more than a casual allusion to Hoffmann’s role at the concep-
tion of the dictionary. In the end, one may wonder if Hoffmann’s philo-
logical work has earned true recognition. Some historical differentiation
seems called for.

A Conversion to Germanic Philology

How much in fact we owe to Hoffmann becomes all the more apparent
if we look at the things he did not do. A hardly recognized, yet striking
omission in his work, which I will go into presently, may have had
far-reaching consequences not only for our knowledge but even for the
actual transmission of the old Dutch folk song – this being, paradoxi-
cally, precisely the area which Hoffmann cherished most fondly. I will
come to this later on.
But first, in order to put both appreciation and underestimation in
perspective, I have to analyse the way Hoffmann developed his ideals
and tried to realise them in Germany; and contrast this with the way he
operated in the Netherlands. In doing this I will look at his literary ambi-
tions, his research strategies and the role of editing.
Hoffmann’s concern with Dutch literature started when he was a
student of classical philology at Göttingen. Following an early, as yet
unfocused interest in Germanic languages and dialects, his commitment
to these studies gained momentum after an encounter with Jacob
Grimm. At some point the then twenty-year-old student expressed his
fascination for antiquity and told Grimm of his plans to make a literary
journey to Italy and Greece. Grimm, with a subtle hint, managed to put
him on a different track by asking: ‘Is not your fatherland closer to you?’
What followed may justly be called a ‘conversion’. It took place on Sep-
tember 5, 1818 and determined the course of his life.
Never has Hoffmann been unclear about his motives. The thing we
hear him talk about the most, in his early writings, is his determination to

De Raaf 1943, 92: ‘To no-one does our nation have a greater debt than to you, for
its knowledge and appreciation of the literature of the Middle Ages.’
258 Herman Brinkman

demonstrate the dissemination of German songs and to clarify the affin-

ity between the cultures of the Germanic peoples. In a letter of New
Year’s Day 1820, addressed to Jacob Grimm, he writes: ‘Auch müssen
die Volkslieder anderer Länder in und ausser Europa berücksichtigt
werden weil sich nur so eine allgemeine Ansicht über das Volkslied
gewinnen lässt’.3 The scope of his vision is reflected in the formulation
of what he considered to become his new field of study:
Ich begriff darunter das Gotische, Alt-, Mittel-, Neuhochdeutsche mit allen
seinen Mundarten, das Altsächsische, Niederdeutsche und Niederländische,
das Friesische, Angelsächsische und Englische, und das Scandinavische;
ferner die deutsche Litteratur- und Culturgeschichte, alles Volksthümliche
in Sitten, Gebräuchen, Sagen und Märchen, sowie endlich Deutschlands
Geschichte, Kunst, Alterthümer und Recht.4
An additional motivation played into this. To Hoffmann, the impact of
folk song revival should be far more than antiquarian, philological or
even patriotic. He discerned a definite aesthetic component, that, to his
opinion, should influence the developing romantic poetics. Drawing on
this he aimed at restoring and cultivating esteem and love for the purity
and beauty of old folk songs. As a poet, he tried to emulate form and
content of these songs and ardently hoped that others as well would start
reading and singing them, be inspired by them, and in this way would
give a new impulse to contemporary poetry.

First Encounters with Dutch Songs

Hoffmann’s first encounter with Dutch songs goes back to his stay in
Göttingen. In 1818 he found a reference in the local library to an edition
of the so-called Souter-liedekens (‘psalter-songs’, i.e. vernacular psalm
adaptations) dating from the sixteenth century. The songs in this book
had no musical notation, but were provided with melodic indications
that referred to opening lines of unknown Dutch secular songs. From
then on he set his mind on retrieving this lost heirloom.

Hoffmann 1892-93, 305-6: ‘the folk songs of other countries within and outside
Europe need also to be taken into account; for only in this way a general perspective
on folk song can be achieved.’
ibid. 100-1: ‘It comprised Gothic, Old-, Middle- and New High German with all
its regional dialects, Old Saxon, Low German, Dutch, Frisian, Anglo-Saxon and Scan-
dinavian; furthermore the history of German culture and literature, folklore in morals,
customs, sagas and fairy tales, as well as the history, art, antiquities and law of Ger-

As early as November 1818, Hoffmann, in a letter to Grimm, dis-

played some views on his proposed studies of Dutch folk song. He
alluded to a possible journey to Holland the next year, in the company of
a friend who was a good composer (and who was probably invited as a
recorder of folk melodies). Especially in Brabant he expected rich har-
vest, because people there, he assumed, loved singing much more than
they did in the ‘deserted dunes of Holland’. Grimm supplied him with a
list of songs, extracted from Dutch bluebooks, some of which Grimm
had already published in 1813 in Deutsche Wälder.
Hoffmann realised that there was no reason for him to stay in the
classically oriented university of Göttingen and decided to register at the
newly founded university of Bonn, where he arrived in May 1819. His
hopes of a radically different programme were frustrated. The lectures by
Schlegel, whom he considered a very vain man, were disappointing.
More stimulating was the student community, which consisted of travel-
ling students from all over the German territories.
The following year he was working on several fronts: language
acquisition, library research, transcription, the establishment of a network
of correspondents, source collection and field work. His objective was to
master the languages he needed for his studies both actively and pas-
sively. In the summer, instead of travelling to Holland, he roamed
through the Walloon region of the Low Countries. Of a short visit to
Maastricht he wrote to Grimm that to his regret he was unable to trace
any oral legends (Hoffmann 1892-93, 308).

Research Strategies in Germany

The rest of 1819 Hoffmann spent in the village of Poppelsdorf, near
Bonn, where he stayed in a house next to the church. Later in life he
recalled the way in which he collected folk songs there, ‘from the lips of
the people’. He was on very friendly terms with the daughter of his land-
lord: ‘Sie sprach das eigentliche Bönnisch und wusste alle die Lieder, die
man zum Tanze oder im Freien und bei Zusammenkünften zu singen
pflegte’.5 These girls taught him their dialect and their songs and when
they were insecure about some texts, they would call in others. A vicar in
the village of Kessenich assisted in melody transcription. In this way

ibid., 82.: ‘She spoke the true dialect of Bonn and knew all the songs that used to
be sung when there was a dance, when people went into the fields, or when there were
260 Herman Brinkman

Hoffmann was able to collect many songs, including some versions of

the Song of the Two Royal Children. Apart from this, his fellow students
Karl Reuter and Peter Adams provided him with several beautiful songs
they had recorded in their own homelands: the Rheingau and the Middle
Around that time he realized that he was severely lacking in study
materials, since the Bonn library did not fulfil all his needs. He conceived
the idea of establishing a private library, which was problematic given his
lack of financial backing. Nevertheless, using the small funds available,
he was able to accomplish a great deal. In the fall of 1819 he discovered
a manuscript on the market in Bonn, which contained about a hundred
songs and dated from the sixteenth century. To his great delight he was
able to buy it. From this manuscript he instantly published two student
songs, maintaining the old orthography. Encouraged by this find he
continued browsing through the stocks of second-hand booksellers, by
which means he obtained several German manuscripts, originating from
Nonnenwerth monastery.
In addition to this he travelled, mostly on foot, to princely and private
libraries throughout the country. In the library of linguist Johann
Gottlieb Radlof he discovered a copy of the Oud Amsterdamsch Liedboek
(Old Amsterdam Songbook), to which he was granted free access. This
book, which contained a Dutch version of the Song of the Two Royal Chil-
dren once again put him on the track of the study of Dutch literature.
Some of the songs he translated and added to a collection of his own
poetry, Lieder und Romanzen (Cologne, 1821). In November 1819 he
received an unpaid position as library assistant, which enabled him to
peruse and excerpt many volumes of both old and new reviews and
collections, and to improve on his foreign language skills: German dia-
lects, Danish and Dutch.
Sometimes his best luck mingled with serious setbacks. In the ducal
library of Wolffenbüttel he discovered the only existing copy of the
Antwerps Liedboek (Antwerp Song Book), a unique collection of more
than 200 worldly songs, printed in 1544. How he would have liked to
transcribe these songs! However, despite his pleadings, no permission
was granted. When he found references to song books in the catalogue
of Mainz library, no one was prepared to take the books from the
shelves. He asked local friends to return to the library at a later date and
to transcribe the songs for him, but to his amazement, they replied that

the library was closed during the winter and that no one could locate the
In 1820, after a short stay in his native Fallersleben, he took up trav-
elling again, visiting acquaintances and libraries. This kind of research,
travelling on foot, was extremely arduous. Reading Hoffmann’s accounts
of constantly getting wet and losing his way, one can understand that
such work could only be done by a young researcher.
The first immediate contacts with the Netherlands were established
through a professor Van Swinderen from Groningen. Van Swinderen
took a letter by Hoffmann to the antiquarian Nicolas Westendorp, who
obligingly mentioned it in his periodical Antiquiteiten as follows:
De Verzamelaar zou gaarne, zoo als velen ten opzigte van Duitschland
reeds gedaan hebben, de volkswijzen, Sagen, Märchen, (vertelsels), legenden
en soortgelijke, verzamelen, welke nog in ons Land in den mond van het
volk leven.6
Westendorp strongly supported this call, but also indicated that as an
ageing cleric, he himself could be of little help, since he seldom had the
opportunity to witness the people singing their old songs at merry times.
A letter Hoffmann sent to the legal scholar Hendrik Willem Tydeman
at Leiden (July 9, 1820) shows his plan to undertake similar researches in
Holland as he had done in Germany:
Zunächst möchte ich wissen, ob der jetzige Volksgesang noch Spuren alter
merkwürdiger Lieder, oder auch noch Weisen bewahre, und in welchen
Gegenden das Volk am singlustigsten geblieben sei.7
Recording the living cultural heritage was, at that point in time, his fore-
most research priority.

First Expedition into the Netherlands

In the meantime Hoffmann compiled an overview of all remaining
sources of Middle Dutch literature, the result of which was published in
1821. Considering the short period of time and the working conditions

Westendorp 1820, 454: ‘The collector wishes, as many already have done for
Germany, to record the folksongs, folk- and fairytales, legends etc. which in our
country are still alive on the lips of the people.’
Brachin 1965, 193: ‘Most of all I would like to know, whether present-day folk-
song has preserved traces of remarkable songs of the past, or melodies for that matter;
and in what parts of the country the people still take most pleasure in singing’.
262 Herman Brinkman

(with practically no help from Dutch scholars and without setting foot
on Dutch soil) one cannot be but amazed of what he had accomplished
so far. Yet he knew that a visit to Holland held the promise of a much
richer harvest. In June 1821 the time had finally come for him to make
his journey to the Netherlands.
Shortly before his departure, he wrote to the 81-year-old Hendrik Van
Wijn, whose Letterkundige Avondstonden (Literary Lucubrations) had sup-
plied him with valuable information. He tried to win over this ailing and
somewhat confused old man and asked him to encourage his Dutch
friends to track oral versions of the Song of the Two Royal Children
(Gaedertz 1888, 26-27).
On his arrival in the Netherlands, his first encounter with academic
circles was far from encouraging. The Utrecht professor Simons, on
whom he called, was not amused by Hoffmann’s ambitions, and pointed
out that it was no custom in the Netherlands to make literary journeys.
He was better received in Leiden, where he stayed with his fellow coun-
tryman, the physician Salomon. What is more, without much ado the
keys of the well stocked library of the Maatschappij der Nederlandsche Letter-
kunde (Society of Dutch Literature) were entrusted to him. This allowed
him to draw up the first catalogue of medieval manuscripts in this collec-
Up to a certain point Hoffmann proceeded in the same way as in
Germany: visiting large and small libraries, browsing the second-hand
book trade for old manuscripts and prints. This approach once again
proved very successful. In a relatively short period of time he acquired
an extremely valuable collection of medieval books, mostly by receiving
gifts and swapping cleverly with booktraders.
Yet there was one striking difference in his approach. One would
have expected him to start a thorough investigation into oral traditions.
But he did nothing of the kind. Nowhere in his autobiography do we
find any hint that he made endeavours in this field, neither during this
first visit nor during any of six consecutive ones. Later in life he stated
that he had started with high expectations, but that his hopes for abun-
dant material proved unrealistic (1833). The awkward thing is that Hoff-
mann’s notion on the dearth of material was also preconceived to a
degree. It appears that professor Siegenbeek of Leiden university, with
whom he had corresponded, had successfully tried to discourage him on
this point. For even before his first journey Hoffmann wrote:

In Holland ist aber gar keine Theilname dafür, und der Volksgesang lebt
nicht mehr fort (...). Ferner sind auch daselbst die älteren Lieder-
sammlungen untergegangen, oder, wie H. Prof. Siegenbeek zu Leiden mir
schreibt, in den Besitz von Privatleuthen gerathen; denn auf öffentlichen
Bibliotheken hielt man wol seit Jos. Scaliger’s Zeit bis zu Ruhnken weder
hdschr., noch gedruckte Sammlungen der Art, des Aufbewahrens werth.
Und auch im Privatbesitz liegen sie unbeachtet oder verachtet.8
From the moment of his arrival in the Netherlands, Hoffmann finds his
expectations confirmed. Three published appeals to the Dutch literary
and scholarly world, to come forward with song texts or songbooks,
remained without response, in spite of Hoffmann’s deliberate appeal to
patriotic sentiments among the Dutch:
Ik wenschte gaarne aan mijn Vaderland het êelste uit den Nederlandschen
volkszang medetedeelen; en daaruit te doen zien, hoe ook Nederland in
ouden tijd met echten Duitschen geest voor poëzij, muzijk en onvervalschte
zeden bezield was. (...) Dat deze gezangen, in den waren zin des woords,
Volksliederen waren, ziet men ook uit derzelver overeenkomst met
Duitsche en andere Germaansche Volksliederen, die veelal in schriftelijke,
maar ook in gedrukte verzamelingen gevonden, en ook thans nog meer of
min volledig door het volk gezongen worden.9
In an amazingly short period of time Hoffmann became convinced that
Dutch folk song up until the sixteenth century had been related to Ger-
man song, but that later on it had been suffocated by learning; with the
result that all that was left were insignificant tunes and dialogues.
Eine Volkspoesie in dem frühern Sinne ist jetzt weder in Holland noch in
Flandern und Brabant vorhanden; wenn der Holländer singt, so hat er

Hoffmann 1821, XXII: ‘In Holland folk song is no longer alive; and what is more,
all the older song collections are lost, or, as professor Siegenbeek of Leiden writes to
me, they are in private possession, for since the days of Scaliger neither manuscripts
nor early printed collections have been considered worth preserving. And in private
ownership they remain unnoticed or even scorned.’
Hoffmann 1821, 50, 55: ‘I would like to present to my fellow countrymen the
most noble specimen of Dutch folk song; and thereby demonstrate that in the old days
the Netherlands were inspired by a true German spirit for poetry, music and unspoiled
morals. (...) That these songs, in the true sense of the word, were folk songs, can be
seen from their resemblance to such German and other Germanic folk songs as can be
found in handwritten and printed collections, and up to the present day are being sung
in more or less complete form by the people.’
264 Herman Brinkman

nichts als einzelne gute Lieder der neuesten gefeierten Dichter und über-
setzte Operntexte des Auslandes, und der Vlaming singt lieber französisch.10

Hoffmann’s View on Contemporary Dutch Song Culture

Pierre Brachin rightly remarks that Hoffmann may have seen a lot of
both the Netherlands and Belgium, but he did not get to know the coun-
tryside. And yet, he travelled a lot, on foot, mostly, or by track barge,
passed through many villages on his way and must have seen as many
taverns. Something of his shocked reaction to contemporary folk songs
he did hear can be read in his recollection of a village fair, which he
happened to witness during one of his travels on foot to Haarlem or The
Hague. This was very unlike a popular festivity in Germany, he writes,
and it did not resemble the old paintings by Teniers in any way. It was a
chaotic mess, in which boys, girls and children were screaming, dancing
and singing. In a dancing hall he was irked by the musicians, who played
worse than beer fiddlers at home. The people were awkwardly dressed
and, worst of all, the words of the revellers’ songs so inappropriate as to
become revolting. Dancing to a cheerful tune, a stanza was such from
the eighteenth-century poet of childrens’ verse Hieronymus Van Alphen,
which went as follows:
Ach mijn zusjen is gestorven,
Maar eerst dertien maantjes oud,
‘k Zag haar in haar doodkist leggen,
Ach, wat was mijn zusjen koud11
– which was followed, he writes, by a wildly sung refrain: ‘Lapperdi
lapperdi lorischi lorischi, Lapperdi lapperdi lorischa!’ Following such
experiences Hoffmann reached the conclusion that the Dutch were truly
alienated from their own national heritage. The reticence of the scholarly
world on his summons told him the rest.
Lack of affection for old folk poetry also revealed itself in a more em-
barrassing way. I have already mentioned that the Song of the Two Royal

Brachin 1965, 194: ‘Folk poetry, in the ancient sense, can no longer be found in
Holland, nor in Flanders or Brabant; when a Dutchman sings, he comes up with some
fine songs from the latest fashionable poet and with translated opera texts from
abroad; when a Fleming sings, he prefers to sing in French.’ It should be understood
that Hoffmann, like Herder and Goethe before him, expressly excluded the songs of
street singers from folk poetry.
Hoffmann 1892-93, 117: ‘Ah, my little sister died /She was thirteen months of
age, / I saw her laid out in her coffin, /Ah, how cold my sister was.’

Children was one of his favourites; it was the song that had attracted him
more to Dutch literature than any other. Of all the thirty versions he had
collected in various languages, he preferred the Dutch one. During his
stay in Leyden, he had noticed that many people were fond of his perfor-
mances of German folk songs. Naturally, he thought he was at liberty to
come forward with one or two Dutch ones. In later years he recalled the
incident in this way:
Eines Tages wurde ich in einer grossen Gesellschaft junger hübscher
Mädchen ersucht, etwas zu singen. Ich sang deutsche Lieder und Alles war
erfreut. So wie ich aber das schöne altniederländische Lied: ‘Het waren twee
coningheskinder’, anstimmte, brach Alles in ein lautes Gelächter aus. Ich
sang nicht weiter, sagte eben auf holländisch, so gut ich eben konnte: ‘Ich
nehme von den schönen Fräulein keine Rücksicht für mich in Anspruch,
habe aber geglaubt, dass sie ihr eigenes Vaterland und seine schöne poeti-
sche Vergangenheit mehr ehren würden’.12
Although Hoffmann desisted from preserving the oral song tradition, he
nevertheless faced an enormous task: the careful reworking of his sur-
veys, a continuous search for new printed or handwritten sources and the
realisation of his editorial plans.

Hoffmann as Editor
Especially the latter task would prove to be an arduous one. At an early
stage, feeling insecure about the way in which he should edit a selection
of the best texts in his collection, he consulted Jacob Grimm. He did not
want to proceed in the manner of Von der Hagen or Arnim and
Brentano, whose work was under serious criticism at that time. On the
other hand he abhorred a textual treatment of Germanic texts by the
standards of classical philology.
At first he pleaded for a swift publication of discovered material, to
preserve other texts from irreparable loss. But the situation of 1821 did
not allow such a policy. He knew of the existence of important song
collections, was aware, indeed, of their exact location, but restricted
accessability frustrated an early realisation of his editorial plans. There-

ibid., 121: ‘One day I was invited into a large company of beautiful young girls
and was requested to sing something. I sang German songs and pleased everyone. But
as soon as I sang the first notes of the fine old Dutch song Once there were two royal
children the whole room exploded into laughter. I stopped singing and said, in my best
Dutch: ‘I did not expect the young ladies to spare me, but at least thought they would
have had more respect for their own native country and its beautiful poetic heritage.’
266 Herman Brinkman

fore, there was no option but to wait for better circumstances. However,
when in 1828 an anthology appeared entitled Letterkundig overzigt en proe-
ven van de Nederlandsche volkszangen sedert de XVde eeuw (‘Literary survey and
specimens of Dutch folksongs from the fifteenth century onwards’),
Hoffmann felt obliged to counter this ‘monstrosity’, by releasing the
songs he collected himself (Hoffmann von Fallersleben 1833). The 1828
anthology by Le Jeune once again displayed the low standards of Dutch
philology. With little respect for the original text the editor replaced
frivolous lines with lines of his own making.
Unfortunately Hoffmann was unable to use his greatest discovery in
this field: the Antwerp Songbook of 1544. As Gerrit Kalff later rightly
stated (Kalff 1884, 644), this book may be considered the foundation of
our knowledge of Dutch song culture of the fifteenth and sixteenth
centuries. Hoffmann’s patron Von Meusebach, who prepared an anthol-
ogy of German songs and contended that the majority of the songs in
this Dutch collection were of German origin, monopolized its perusal
for a period of more than twenty years. Only from 1843 onwards,
twenty-three years after Hoffmann had discovered the copy, was he
allowed to look into it and, during short intervals, and only in Meuse-
bach’s presence, copy some of the songs. This restriction was so severe
that by 1854 Hoffmann had transcriptions of only 57 of 221 songs. And
when he finally obtained permission to publish the collection, he was
granted a mere eight weeks to get the job done, a task he was unable to
fulfill in time. With presses running, he was summoned to return the
book. Only through the intervention of another patron was he allowed to
use the little book for a slightly longer period of time, which was just
enough to accomplish the work. This edition, by the way, was the only
one that was benevolently treated by De Vreese in the Bouwstoffen of the
Middle Dutch Dictionary.
In more than one way, it may be argued, Hoffmann failed to live up
to his high ambitions. First of all he failed to restore the affection for
ancient folk song. He realized this when he wrote in 1852:
Wie ganz anders hätte sich die National-litteratur dort zu Lande gestaltet,
wenn die altniederländische volksthümliche Poesie als Muster und leitender
Grundsatz betrachtet worden wäre, wenn sie die poetischen Geister angeregt
und belebt hätte! Die heutige Poesie huldigt noch immer jener fremdartigen
Geschmacksrichtung aus den Zeiten der französischen Ludwige, sie hat
noch immer jenen fremdartigen Zuschnitt in ihren Formen beibehalten,
sowie jene gelehrte Ausdrucksweise und bleibt dadurch dem Gemüthe des

Volks eben so fern, wie die Vergangenheit der Gegenwart, und oft eben so
unverständlich, wie das Ausland dem Vaterlande.13
At the end of his life a certain indifference regarding editorial procedure
seems to prevail. In the 1870 edition of the collection of proverbs by
Tunnicius, instead of a justification of his editorial practice, we read a
diatribe against the modern-day generation of narrow-minded know-it-all
critics, who will never be satisfied, whatever decisions an editor may
take. If you faithfully transcribe the source, he complains, they will argue
that you made no effort to clarify the text; if you present a critical text
they will say it is a bad thing the original is faithfully reproduced (Hoff-
mann 1870, 9-10). His remarks may be more than the grousing of a
grumpy old man; that is, if we recall the nineteenth century appraisal of
his faithful textual rendition of the Antwerp Songbook and compare it
with the verdict of Wytze Hellinga, who characterized his edition as ‘as
boring as it is correct’, with the addition ‘the song returned, the book
remained dead’.14
The second point on which Hoffmann failed to accomplish what he
set out to do, was the recording of the oral tradition. It is most unfortu-
nate that Hoffmann seems to have been far too premature in his views
on the possibilities of researching Dutch folk song as part of a living
cultural heritage. The fact that his summons to the scholarly world failed
to raise a response, that his appeals to the patriotic sentiment in these
circles did not have the effect he expected them to have, has nothing to
do with the alleged disappearance of folklore. Nor does it have anything
to do with a lack of scholarly interest in history. On the contrary, pre-
cisely during the days that Hoffmann concerned himself with Dutch
literature, interest in history revived as never before, within the context
of an outspoken nationalism. In 1812, Jan Frederik Helmers’ De Holland-

Hoffmann von Fallersleben 1852, 123: ‘How differently the national literature of
the Netherlands could have developed, had the old Dutch folk poetry been taken up
as an example and lodestar; if this poetry had inspired and animated the poetic minds!
Today the poetic tastes are still similar to the fashions of French classicism; it still
maintains a foreign aspect in its forms, just as it has kept a predilection to phrases that
show off learning; therefore it will not reach the hearts of the people any closer than
the past comes close to the present, and often remains as hard to understand as a
foreign country.’
Hellinga 1941, 181. A recent edition of the Antwerp Songbook (Wolffenbüttel,
Herzog August Bibliothek, 236.5 Poetica) is Van der Poel, Geirnaert and Joldersma
268 Herman Brinkman

sche Natie (‘The Dutch Nation’) appeared, the most outstanding patriotic
poem ever written in Dutch. In the years following the French occupa-
tion this long poem went through many printings and gained immense
popularity. It is a permanent glorification of the past; in passionate
phrasings the poet presents historical scenes; a portrait gallery of national
heroes is established. Only, there is no place, no place at all, for the
Middle Ages in this picture. It is a celebration of the Golden Age and all
those who followed its protestant values.
Only very slowly did this attitude change. Helmers called the Middle
Ages the pitch black night of civilization; Willem de Clercq, twelve years
later, still spoke of ‘the fogs of the Middle Ages’. It took the Belgian
revolution in 1830 and the emergence of the Flemish Movement, with its
challenge to French linguistic supremacy, to create the conditions for
Hoffmann’s ideals to be taken up again and developed further.15

Borchert, Jürgen. 1991. Hoffmann von Fallersleben: Ein deutsches Dichterschicksal.
Berlin: Verlag der Nation.
Brachin, Pierre. 1965. Les Pays-Bas vus par Hoffmann von Fallersleben. Études
germaniques 20: 189-209.
Gaedertz, Karl Theodor, ed. 1888. Briefwechsel von Jakob Grimm und
Hoffmann-Fallersleben mit Hendrik van Wyn. Nebst anderen Briefen zur deutschen
Litteratur. Bremen.
Hellinga, W.Gs, ed. 1941. Een schoon liedekens-boeck in den welcken ghy in vinden sult,
veelderhande liedekens, oude ende nyeuwe, om droefheyt ende melancolie te verdryven.
’s-Gravenhage: Boucher.
Hoffman von Fallersleben, A.H. 1821. Aanzoek om mededeeling van oude
Nederlandsche volksliederen. Algemeene Konst- en Letterbode 2: 50-55.
Hoffmann von Fallersleben, A.H., ed. 1821. Bonner Bruchstücke vom Otfried nebst
anderen deutschen Sprachdenkmaelern. Bonn.
Hoffmann von Fallersleben, A.H. 1830-1862. Horae belgicae. Studio atque opera
Henrici Hoffmann Fallerslebensis. 12 vols. Vratislaviae.
Hoffmann von Fallersleben, A.H. ed. 1870. Die älteste Niederdeutsche Sprichwörter-
sammlung, von Antonius Tunnicius gesammelt und in Lateinische Verse übersetzt.
Hoffmann von Fallersleben, A.H..1892-93. Gesammelte Werke. Vol. 7, Mein
Leben. Berlin.

For a recent perspective of Hoffmann’s role in the cultural and nationalist move-
ments of the nineteenth-century Netherlands and Belgium, see Leerssen 2006, chapter
5; for further reading on Hoffmann see his biography by Jürgen Borchert (1991).

Le Jeune, J.C.W., ed. 1828. Letterkundig overzigt en proeven van de Nederlandsche

volkszangen sedert de XVde eeuw. ’s-Gravenhage.
Leerssen, Joep. 2006. De bronnen van het vaderland: Taal, literatuur en de afbakening
van Nederland, 1806-1890. Nijmegen: Vantilt.
Logghe, Koenraad. 1991. Hoffmann von Fallersleben, of hoe het literaire
nationalisme gestalte nam. Teksten, kommentaren en studies 13.64: 54-59.
Poel, Dieuwke E. van der, Dirk Geirnaert, Hermina Joldersma et al., eds. 2004.
Het Antwerps Liedboek. 2 vols. Tielt: Delta/Lannoo.
Poettgens, Erika. 1993. Hoffmann von Fallersleben. Ein Forscher und Dichter
zwischen Preussen und den Niederlanden. In Brandenburg-Preussen und die
Niederlande: Zur Dynamik einer Nachbarschaft, eds. Jattie Enklaar and Hans
Ester, 20-40. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
Raaf, K.H. de. 1943. Hoffmann von Fallersleben: voortrekker in het oude land der
Dietsche letteren. Den Haag: Oceanus.
Verwijs, E. and J. Verdam, eds 1927-52. Middelnederlandsch woordenboek. Vol 10,
Willem de Vreese, Tekstcritiek van J. Verdam en Bouwstoffen, eerste gedeelte (A-F);
G.I. Lieftinck, Tweede gedeelte (G-Z). ’s-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff.
Westendorp, N. 1820. Over Volksliederen en Vertelsels. Antiquiteiten. Een
oudheidkundig tijdschrift (IVe stuk): 453-455.

Appendix: A.H. Hoffmann von Fallersleben’s ‘Horae belgicae’ series (1830-1862)

1: De antiquioribus Belgarum literis (Vratislavae 1830). 2nd ed.: Übersicht der mittel-
niederländischen Dichtung (Hannover 1857).
2: Holländische Volkslieder: mit einer Musikbeilage (Breslau 1833). 2nd ed.: Nieder-
ländische Volkslieder (Hannover 1856).
3: Diederic van Assenede, Floris ende Blancefloer. Mit Einleitung, Anmerkungen und
Glossar (Leipzig 1836). 2nd ed.: Diederic van Assenede, Floris ende Blancefloer. Mit
Einleitung, Anmerkungen und Glossar (Leipzig/Hannover 1854).
4: Caerl ende Elegast (Lipsiae 1836; also as dissertation, Breslau). 2nd ed.: Caerl
ende Elegast (Lipsiae prostat Hannoverae 1854).
5: Lantsloot ende die scone Sandrijn. Renout van Montalbaen (Breslau 1837).
6: Altniederländische Schaubühne: Abele spelen ende sotternien (Breslau 1838).
7: Niederländische Glossare des XIV. und XV. Jahrhunderts nebst einem Nieder-
deutschen (Leipzig 1845). 2nd ed.: Glossarium Belgicum (Hannover 1856).
8: Loverkens: Altniederländische Lieder (Göttingen 1852).
9: Altniederländische Sprichwörter nach der ältesten Sammlung. Gesprächbüchlein, ro-
manisch und flämisch (Hannover 1854).
10: Niederländische geistliche Lieder des XV. Jahrhunderts aus gleichzeitigen Handschriften
(Hannover 1854).
11: Antwerpener Liederbuch vom Jahre 1544 nach dem einzigen noch vorhandenen
Exemplare (Hannover 1855).
12: Bruchstücke mittelniederländischer Gedichte, nebst Loverkens (Hannover 1862).
EUROPEAN STUDIES 26 (2008): 271-285



Jan Pauwels

The Belgian Revolution of 1830, which marked the beginning of the
country’s independence, was initially felt as a disruption in the private
and public care of ancient books and manuscripts. Soon afterwards,
however, book-collecting resumed in circles of (mainly Flemish)
antiquarians and bibliophiles, whose interests were increasingly recog-
nized as providing the fledgeling state with the literary and cultural
ancestry needed to legitimise its independent existence. Soon, private
initiatives were to shade increasingly into the formation of public
(state-sponsored) initiatives and shifted fom the local (municipal) to
the national level.

The rise of Netherlandic philology in the geographical regions that today

constitute the federal State of Belgium is inextricably linked with the
history of book collecting. Nowadays scholars tend to spend a substan-
tial part of their time in large libraries and archives, where the national
cultural heritage is conserved and made accessible to the general public.
Save for a few exceptions – mostly manuscripts or books with aesthetic
appeal – hardly any truly important items are now in private hands. But
when philology first manifested itself as a new discipline, at the dawn of
the nineteenth century, the situation was quite different: the large public
institutions we know today were still under construction and the most
notable manuscripts and books were in private hands. Thanks to the
efforts on the part of modern European philologists, unexplored source
material was discovered throughout Europe; a wave of text editions
272 Jan Pauwels

ensued. Gradually these manuscripts and rare books would become the
property of public institutions. Their status shifted from antiquarian
collectables to pieces of the national cultural heritage. Further institu-
tional expansion in the course of the century, including a staff of trained
and remunerated scholars, led to greater professionalism in the field.
Therefore, in order to fully understand the literary activity during the
Romantic era, an institutional approach is required besides a mere poeti-
cal one (Leerssen 2004).
As elsewhere in Europe, there was a group of intellectuals in Belgium
who, from the 1820s, began to study language and literature in the ver-
nacular. Their main activity consisted in tracing and publishing old
Dutch texts. They represented a cultural emancipation movement that
strove to promote Dutch in the young, bilingual State of Belgium by
studying its literary history. The three most prominent representatives of
this movement, essentially amateur philologists, were also enthusiastic
book collectors: the libraries of civil servant Jan Frans Willems (1793-
1846) and his younger colleagues professor Constant Philippe Serrure
(1805-1872) and doctor Ferdinand Augustijn Snellaert (1809-1872) were
renowned. After the death of these collectors, large parts of their collec-
tions became public property. In what follows, I shall try to explain how
this first generation of philologists came to own such significant book
collections, how they used them for philological purposes, and how the
public authorities subsequently took over their roles as collectors.

Books Gone Astray

In the early nineteenth century, unknown manuscripts and early editions
were discovered all over Europe. This was largely due to the fact that,
with the rise of philology, scholars were now actively searching for them.
However, only decades before, any such activity would have been in
vain. During the Ancien Régime, large parts of the literary heritage were
conserved and studied behind the closed doors of religious institutions.
These books had been standing on the library shelves of monasteries,
chapters or colleges for centuries, often since the Middle Ages or the
Reformation, depending on the country or region. Except for the many
battles and pillaging that took place in Belgium – the proverbial battle-
field of Europe, where the great powers traditionally tended to resolve
their armed conflicts – these collections had remained static. Large parts
of the literary heritage never made it into the marketplace.

A series of rapid politico-religious developments thoroughly changed

the structure of book possession, and numerous manuscripts and early
editions began to circulate again. In the case of the Southern Nether-
lands, four regime changes occurred in the space of just two generations:
between 1780 and 1830, the region was successively ruled by the Austri-
ans, the French, the Dutch and, finally, the Belgian State. Each of these
regimes would have a profound influence on book possession and col-
lecting. The first development was prompted by the abolition of monas-
teries under Austrian rule. In implementation of the papal brief ‘Do-
minus ac Redemptor’, Empress Maria Theresa (1717-1780) dissolved the
Jesuit order and declared its property forfeit in September 1773. Between
1777 and 1780, approximately 150,000 books and manuscripts from the
order’s schools were sold to the public, either item per item, or in lots, or
even by weight. Some of these books were earmarked for the predeces-
sor to the Royal Library and were transported to Brussels from all over
the country, often by primitive means (e.g. in oyster barges in the case of
the collection of the Jesuit College in Bruges). Several years passed be-
tween the dissolution of the Jesuit Order and the relocation of its book
holdings, so that considerable irregularities occurred and many books
found their way onto the market illicitly. The precise provenance of a
book was hard to verify, as the Jesuits burnt their library catalogues
shortly before the order’s dissolution (Opdebeeck 2004).
Under the guise of rationalisation, Maria Theresa’s son and successor,
Emperor Joseph II (1741-1790), decided in 1780 to disband another 150
monasteries belonging to contemplative and therefore ‘useless’ orders.
Consequently, between 1782 and 1792, another 60,000 volumes went
under the hammer. This abundant flow of manuscripts and books over a
fifteen-year period inundated the private market, and yet more was to
follow: shortly after the French revolution, all objects of art (including
books) owned by fugitives, convicts, churches and monasteries, muse-
ums and schools were confiscated. In 1794, after the French empire’s
annexation of present-day Belgium, all remaining monasteries were
closed down. Their book collections were sold off or else donated to
newly founded public libraries. The most valuable works were dis-
patched to France. These operations were carried out by the special
agences d’extraction, which, among other things, plundered the Royal Li-
brary, the archbishopric and the University of Louvain. After the Battle
of Waterloo, as the territory of Belgium was added to the Kingdom of
274 Jan Pauwels

the Netherlands, the terms of the Treaty of Paris and the Congress of
Vienna ordered the restitution of any confiscated property. But the li-
brarians who, under the protection of the occupying forces, set out to
locate the stolen treasures in France were able to recoup only a fraction
and, in some instances, actually brought back the wrong books (Lemaire
1981, Varry 1991, Machiels 2000, Opsomer 2001, Janssens 2005).
Nor did this partial restitution mark the end of the momentous shifts
in book ownership. On 25 August 1830, a revolution erupted in Brussels
that would lead to the independence of Belgium and the further disper-
sion of a number of sizeable collections. The military commander of the
revolutionaries set up his headquarters in the home of the well-known
bibliophile Karel Van Hulthem (1764-1832), on the corner of the Park in
Brussels. Consequently, Van Hulthem’s library was – quite literally –
caught in the line of fire. Miraculously, most of the volumes survived,
but an unknown number of manuscripts and books were lost, and
twenty others suffered ‘bullet holes’. Some valuable manuscripts were
shredded by the revolutionaries to produce cartridges. After a ceasefire
had been called, Van Hulthem had the remainder of his library moved to
Gent. (Leleux 1965, 421-442) The 6000 volumes in what was then Jan
Frans Willems’s collection were packed in peat baskets and stored in an
attic above the shed of a café in Antwerp. The most valuable items were
looked after by Serrure, who, after the bombardment of the city by the
Dutch, had some moved to the cellar of his own home and others to the
homes of acquaintances in other towns. If Willems needed any particular
volumes, they would be brought by barge to his new home, seventy
kilometres from Antwerp. Willems would later, in a letter to Hoffmann
von Fallersleben, complain about this dispersal and about the fact that
some works, including copies of his own writing, were lost in the process
(Deprez 1963, 37-38).
Much research is still required to unravel the developments outlined
here in their full complexity, but one thing is clear: in the space of just
one or two generations, the relatively static book collections of the ancien
régime in the Southern Netherlands had been superseded by a market
inundated with widely dispersed valuable items. The combination of low
prices and wide availability meant that private collectors at the time were
able to acquire huge libraries. Van Hulthem, for example, purchased the
best-known of all Middle Dutch manuscripts – which today carries his
name – for a mere 5.50 francs; a bargain even at the time. The market

also offered opportunities for ‘enterprising’ individuals: there are exam-

ples of practices that lie somewhere in between vandalism, theft, and the
underhand selling of items that had supposedly been brought to ‘safety’
by monks or others. Furthermore, during these turbulent times, there
was no way of telling what would happen to confiscated items. As it
turned out, quite often they ended up in private collections. To name but
one example: Jan Frans van de Velde (1743-1823), previously a librarian
at the suspended university of Louvain, is believed to have gained access
to a French warehouse in Brussels and to have taken a large number of
manuscripts and books. Certainly at the auction of his library in 1833,
items from the collections of some dissolved monasteries resurfaced,
some of which were subsequently purchased by the Royal Library (Des-
champs 1993). There were also numerous foreigners, mostly English-
men, who bought on the continental market. Sir Thomas Phillips (1798-
1872), arguably the greatest collector of all time, and his illustrious com-
patriot Richard Heber MP (1773-1833) even went so far as to rent pre-
mises to store their new acquisitions. Heber actually lived on the conti-
nent uninterruptedly from 1826 until 1831 to buy books in bulk. After
their deaths, the books of such collectors were usually put up for auc-
tion, so that the effects of their activities continued to reverberate, cer-
tainly until around 1850, and, to a lesser degree, into the twentieth cen-
tury. Between 1830 and 1880, all kinds of rarities freshly appeared on the
market, which created an opportunity for philologists to make some
important discoveries.

Academics and Collectors

It is no coincidence that all Dutch-speaking philologists in Belgium lived
in Gent, the Flemish centre of philological and bibliophile activity during
the first half of the nineteenth century. Private book ownership flour-
ished: of the 400,000 volumes in the city no fewer than 150,000 be-
longed to large private collections, with another 150,000 in smaller col-
lections and just 50,000 in the library of the university (Voisin 1840, 75-
80). The libraries of philologists were even mentioned with the name and
address of the owner in the annual city almanacs. They were also men-
tioned in visitors’ guides to cities, an indication that they were (some-
times) accessible to colleagues and that they definitely served a philologi-
cal purpose. Their libraries also feature in letters and documents of for-
eign contemporaries, and even in publications by (mostly) German phi-
276 Jan Pauwels

lologists, who again emphasised their academic significance. The Ger-

man librarian L.C. Bethmann (1812-1867), for example, wrote the fol-
lowing in a travel account:
M. Willems, qui s’est principalement occupé de la littérature flamande,
possède, en ce qui la concerne, la plus riche collection de la Belgique, après
celle de Van Hulthem. M. le professeur Serrure a également en sa posses-
sion beaucoup de manuscrits flamands, quelques-uns en vieux français, et
un grand nombre de fragments provenant de couvertures de livres, etc.,
telles que les deux feuilles des Nibelungen en bas-allemand, qu’il a publiées
(Bethmann 1843, 133-162)
After the Belgian revolution, which put a temporary stop to the vicissi-
tudes of book collections, and partly under the impulse of the new
government, a Belgian national literature emerged simultaneously in
Dutch and in French. The newly formed State also set out in search of a
national history, including in the two literatures (Couttenier 1998). Liter-
ary activity was encouraged by means of prize competitions for patriotic
poetry and the subsidising of young authors and their publications, but
equally by the establishment of committees entrusted with the publica-
tion of ancient sources (which was, for that matter, a continuation of the
approach taken during the Dutch era). The edition of old sources, in-
cluding texts in Dutch, was applauded by the largely French-speaking
intellectual elite as an enhancement of the foundations of the fledgeling
Belgian State.
Initially, the new generation of philologists based their source editions
largely on their own collections. Even in the first episode of Mengelingen,
the first series of Dutch-language text editions, Willems edited a satirical
poem entitled Dit es de frenesie, of which he himself possessed a manu-
script (Willems 1827). The most striking example of an editor who based
editions on his own collection is Serrure, who wrote just about every-
thing that appeared in the journal he himself had established, Vader-
landsch Museum voor Nederduitse Letterkunde, Oudheid en Geschiedenis (1855-
1862). Among the texts to be published in this journal were fifteen edi-
tions of manuscripts from his personal collection. In the series Maetschap-
py der Vlaemsche Bibliophilen, he published twelve text editions, five of
which were based on manuscripts from his personal library (Deschamps
2004, 348-9, 359-63). Of course these philologists also corresponded
frequently about their efforts to trace and acquire manuscripts and early
editions. They also borrowed material from each other, so that break-

throughs in Dutch philology were often achieved through cooperation.

Willems, for example, was able to publish excerpts of Spiegel historiael in
his journal Belgisch Museum (1837-1846), which had been made available
to him by the well-known historian Alexandre Pinchart (1823-1884) after
mediation on the part of Jules de Saint-Genois (1813-1867), librarian of
Gent University. Inevitably, some conflicts arose regarding the return of
borrowed documents: the two friends Willems and Serrure – the latter in
his capacity as representative of the relatives of Richard Heber – were
locked in a dispute for several years over of the tardy restitution of a
manuscript of Brabantsche yeesten to the heirs of the deceased English
bibliophile. Serrure even threatened legal steps (Bols 1909, 355 & 357).
In such situations, a contract could offer a way out: thus, after Willems’s
death, Snellaert drew up a contract with a publisher concerning the con-
tinued publication of the unfinished Oude Vlaamsche Liederen (1846-48).
Article two of the agreement stipulated that the entire manuscript and
any books from the library that were regarded as indispensable to this
publication would be made available to him, the ultimate proof that
philological endeavour and book collecting went hand in hand at the
time. Indeed it was simply impossible to work as a philologist without
access to private book collections.
The hunt was on, not only for unknown manuscripts or old books;
autograph transcripts by colleagues were also in demand. At the auction
of Willems’s library, for example, there were 27 lots containing
‘manuscrits et copies de la main de M. Willems’ (Snellaert 1847, 4752-
4778). The items fetched relatively high prices, especially the transcripts
of previously unpublished manuscripts. The ferocity of competition in
the auction room is apparent not only from the prices fetched or the
names of the buyers (especially Serrure), but also from a written eyewit-
ness account by the absent-minded Snellaert: ‘I feel embarrassed about
the purchase of some of Willems’s manuscripts. (...) Because of an inex-
plicable lapse of concentration on my part, I didn’t even bid on no. 4752,
so that Serrure was able to buy it on behalf of Mr De Jonge from
Brussels, for the sum of 1.50 francs. I purchased nos. 4758, 4762, 4766
and 4767 for you for what I believe to be a reasonable price, especially in
the case of the latter two lots, almost nothing of which has been pub-
lished’ (Gent UL, G 17943/151).
The hunt for transcripts by well-known philologists ties in with pre-
vailing editorial practice at the time. Quite a few important texts were
278 Jan Pauwels

published on the basis of a transcription rather than the original. The

most striking example is the Van Hulthem manuscript, a collection of
Middle Dutch texts named after its owner Karel Van Hulthem. Around
1828, Serrure, who was still a student at the time, copied various texts
from the collection, and Willems published a number of songs without
ever having seen the manuscript. After the death of the owner, Willems
was as yet able to borrow the volume and he too transcribed substantial
parts of the text. Virtually all editions of known texts from the manu-
script – not just those by the amateur founders of Dutch philology in
Belgium, such as Blommaert and Snellaert, but also editions by estab-
lished foreign philologists such as the Germans Franz Josef Mone (1796-
1871) and August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben (1798-1874) and
the Dutchman Jan Tideman (1821-1901) – were based on transcriptions
by Willlems and Serrure (Brinkman & Schenkel 1999, 16-20). Likewise,
the most significant text edition by Snellaert, Alexanders Geesten by Jacob
Van Maerlant, is not based directly on the original. Because of his pro-
fessional obligations, he was unable to travel to Munich to study the only
complete copy of the manuscript, so that he based his edition on a tran-
scription by the German philologist Johann Schmeller (1785-1852). Snel-
laert’s edition was not received favourably, and was superseded twenty
years later by the German-Dutch philologist Johannes Franck (1854-
1914), who did consult the Munich manuscript (De Smedt 1989-90).

The Shift Towards Institutional Ownership

Tracing dispersed manuscripts was a permanent preoccupation for the
nineteenth-centruy philologist. Some even went so far as to draw up
auction catalogues or to pose as antique dealers (Pauwels 2000). Often,
they acted as advisors to the authorities, who tried to support national
philology by setting various committees and who were also prepared to
buy books and manuscripts. In 1836, for example, Willems and Serrure
asked the Belgian State to purchase the only surviving manuscript of
Reynaerts historie at the eleventh auction of the library of Richard Heber. It
was the manuscript on which Willems had in part based his text edition
of Reynaert (Willems 1836). Willems had been advising the government
since the period of Dutch rule, as is apparent from an 1828 letter in
which Pierre van Gobbelschroy (1784-1850), then Minister of the Inte-
rior, asks Willems about ‘old documents from former institutions, spiri-
tual associations, abbeys etc’ that were sold in Antwerp. He also asks

Willems to act as an adviser to the government on matters regarding the

acquisition of possible rarities: ‘I regard it as my duty to do my utmost to
save such items for the State, and I believe the best way to achieve that
goal is to ask a knowledgeable person to keep a watchful eye for any-
thing that may come up for sale in this manner’ (Bols 1909, 173-174).
After a brief interruption, Willems continued to fulfill his advisory role
in independent Belgium. The same holds for Snellaert, who was asked by
the Minister in 1862 to formulate a recommendation regarding the tran-
scription of a number of medical manuscripts from the Bibliothèque
Impériale in Paris. Snellaert issued a positive recommendation, but at the
same time tried to win over the State for his own (unrealised) edition of
works by the fifteenth-century physician Jan Yperman: ‘Having been
informed that the Ministry of the Interior has had a transcription made
of the text of Jan Yperman’s Heelkunde, contained in the manuscript that
was recently discovered in Cambridge, I request you, Mr. Minister, to
lend the aforementioned transcription to me for a few days. I have for
considerable time been preparing an edition of the works of the father of
Dutch medicine, for which I have had at my disposal two manuscripts:
the Hulthem manuscript and one from my own collection. It speaks for
itself, Mr Minister, that it is of the greatest importance that these two
texts could be compared with a third’. (the Cambridge manuscript is St
John’s College, CB2 1 TP and was published on the basis of the Dutch
transcription in Broeckx 1863)
The Belgian State, like the earlier Dutch authorities, thus played an
actively supportive role in the search for the dispersed national cultural
heritage. In the event of the death of an important collector or philolo-
gist, the state sometimes purchased their entire collection. In such in-
stances, the philological significance of the collection was invariably
conflated with the state’s nation-building ambitions – as with the first
major purchase, the Van Hulthem collection, consisting of more than
1000 manuscripts and 60,000 books. After the death of the most prolific
of all Belgian collectors, the State had commissioned the Gent librarian
Auguste Voisin (1800-1843) to compile a catalogue (Voisin 1836-37).
The collection was valued at 315,000 francs, so that exceptional funding
had to be requested from parliament. The young MP Charles Augustin
Liedts (1802-1878) opened his report to the Chamber of Representatives
on the acquisition of the library with the following evocation of one of
the core duties of the newly established Belgian State:
280 Jan Pauwels

C’est de former l’esprit national, d’inspirer aux citoyens un si ardent amour

de la patrie, de les rendre si idolâtres des institutions nouvelles, qu’ils s’y
attachent comme à leur existence, que, présens ou absens, il n’en parlent
qu’avec passion, n’y songent qu’avec orgueil et qu’ils ameraient mieux tout
perdre que de renoncer à leur patrie.
Liedts referred to the significance of a national library, arguing that Van
Hulthem’s manuscripts and rare books relating to the country’s literary
and bibliographical history could provide the basis for such an institu-
tion. He added that it was important that the State should act before
foreign speculators moved in (Parliament 1837, 57). In January 1837, the
debate on the acquisition of the library took place, and even opponents
of the purchase ackowledged its national significance. They found the
collection too expensive to acquire in such uncertain times, and they also
argued that it included too many double copies and insignificant works,
and that the catalogue was unreliable. Eugène De Smet MP (1787-1872)
was most outspoken of all:
Les livres sont en général de trop bas aloi pour devoir même craindre la
concurrence des étrangers. Et je ne crains pas de déclarer que la valeur
réelle de cette collection ne vaut pas le tiers de ce qu’on nous demande; ce
serait donc un scandaleux abus que de dilapider ainsi les deniers de l’état
dont nous avons bien besoin pour le moment.
However, these arguments meant nothing in comparison to the national-
istic discourse of the proponents, who expressed fears that a piece of
national heritage and prestige might otherwise be lost. Furthermore, the
inspection report of a committee was read aloud which approved the
purchase on academic grounds. The committee was made up of three
heavyweights: Etienne-Constantin de Gerlache (1785-1871), the coun-
try’s highest-ranking magistrate, Joseph Marchal (1780-1858), keeper of
manuscripts, and Willems, the undisputed authority in the field of medi-
eval Dutch manuscripts, of which Van Hulthem possessed no fewer than
two hundred (Moniteur belge 1837, nr. 25). The purchase by the Belgian
State for the price of 300,000 francs was eventually approved by the
Chamber with 56 votes in favour, 11 against and 2 abstentions (Moniteur
belge 1837, no. 26).
The purchase by the State of private collections – either as a whole or
only the most important items – would continue to be a common occur-
rence throughout the nineteenth century (Bibliothèque royale: 1969, 135-
156), even though a shift of emphasis did occur. In 1872, the owners of

the three most important private collections – Serrure, Blommaert and

Snellaert – died within a brief time-span, so that their libraries came onto
the market almost simultaneously. Now that a generation of important
collectors had virtually disappeared, there would henceforth be fewer
opportunities for the State to acquire old books. The lawyer and MP
from Gent, Louis Drubbel (1814-1887), said as much during a debate in
the Chamber on 15 March 1873:
Les occasions favorables de ventes aussi importantes que celles des biblio-
thèques Serrure, Snellaert et Blommaert sont rares et ne se présenteront
probablement plus. (...) Ne perdons pas de vue que les occasions d’achat,
assez fréquentes au temps des premiers collectionneurs, deviennent
excessivement rares aujourd’hui, et la plupart des bibliothèques ont disparu
ou vont bientôt disparaître.
He went on to suggest that Snellaert’s library should be purchased in its
entirety. Snellaert’s collection consisted exclusively of Dutch-language
works, ranging from medieval manuscripts to very rare folk books and
collections of drama (Deprez 1987, De Smedt 2004). After seeking ad-
vice from two experts, a professor and a librarian, and after consultation
with the Administration and the Royal Library, it was decided that the
collection should, by way of exception, be acquired on behalf of the
university library of Gent (Deprez 1985), the ancient capital of the Coun-
ty of Flanders, rather than for the Royal Library:
La bibliothèque de la capitale des Flandres est en effet le dépot naturel des
trésors littéraires flamands. Il est bien juste que l’on trouve dans la seule
bibliothèque sérieuse des deux Flandres la collection des livres flamands les
plus intéressants et j’allais presque dire ce que l’on n’y rencontre pas, ce
sont les ouvrages qui concernent la langue et la littérature flamandes.
Moreover, he read aloud a letter from Ferdinand Vander Haeghen (1830-
1913), the librarian of the University of Gent, who was prepared to make
a special gesture if Snellaert’s library were to be acquired:
Si le gouvernement achète la bibliothèque Snellaert, je m’engage à donner
gratuitement ma collection toute entière. Cette série de Gantois comprend
environ 10,000 volumes et pièces et m’a coûté plus du double de la somme
qui est demandée au gouvernement pour l’acquisition de la bibliothèque
It was on this private collection that he had based his bibliographic mas-
terpiece, the seven-volume Bibliographie gantoise, which had earned him
international acclaim (Vander Haeghen 1858-1869). He had previously
282 Jan Pauwels

also exhibited parts of this collection at the Paris Universal Exhibition of

1866. In other words, it was a considerable gesture, so that one could no
longer refuse to purchase Snellaert’s Dutch-language works, which was
described as ‘une collection réunie à un autre point de vue, mais à un
point de vue non moins national’. The Minister of the Interior, Jean-
Baptiste Delcour (1811-1889), added his support to the proposal and the
special credit for the acquisition of the library of Snellaert was approved
(Parliament 1873, 753-755). Vander Haeghen’s action set an example
and several other donations (and purchases) of private collections would
follow in the course of his librarianship (Vander Haeghen 1911). Clearly,
a pattern had begun to emerge, as successive generations of philologists
saw to it that the collections of their predecessors fell into the hands of
the State, as indeed would many of their own collections subsequently.
This further enhanced the shift from private to public ownership of
manuscripts and early publications.
The attitude of an owner vis-à-vis the State could have important
consequences for the destination of their book collections. After a num-
ber of irregularities, Serrure, was dismissed as Rector of the University of
Gent, and his professorial teaching assignment would subsequently also
be restricted. Henceforth, he would refuse to sell parts of his collection
to the State, despite a chronic shortage of money and repeated requests
on the part of Louis Alvin (1806-1887), the Royal Library’s chief keeper.
Nevertheless, he had acted as an intermediary for that institution at im-
portant auctions in Gent and literally provided it with hundreds of books
and manuscripts. This, too, came to an end when it emerged that one
could not tell for certain whether all books supplied had actually been
ordered (Deschamps 2004, 381-2). It is apparent from a letter by Alvin
that Serrure did not even want his books to fall into the hands of the
Belgian State after his death:
Nous avons, du vivant de M. Serrure, fait de nombreuses mais vaines ten-
tatives pour acquérir in globo sa bibliothèque, mais le professeur, pré-
tendant avoir à se plaindre du gouvernement, n’a jamais voulu traiter. Il
paraît même qu’il a défendu à son fils de traiter avec l’Etat, même après sa
mort. C’est ce qui oblige les héritiers à recourir aux enchères publiques.
(Deprez 1985, 363-364)
Because of his dislike for the government, Serrure preferred to organise
anonymous auctions of his books during his lifetime or to sell precious
items to Engelbert August, the eighth Count of Arenberg (1834-1875). It

appears from Serrure’s correspondence with the Count’s private librarian

that Serrure sold him dozens of rare – unique even – Middle Dutch
romances for 5000 francs, quite a substantial sum for a private collector.
He would later sell numerous other unique or very rare manuscripts and
early editions on language, literature and the history of the Netherlands,
which today are located across the world, mostly in the United States
(Cockx-Indestege & De Schepper 2000). The interest of the State –
which under normal circumstances is a powerful motor for the retention
of a philological collection – would appear to have had the opposite
effect in this particular case.

Due to an amazing series of historical events, early philologists were able
to make numerous new discoveries. They acquired manuscripts and rare
books that often had lain hidden behind the walls of monasteries for
centuries, and subsequently edited and published them. Through these
editions the books and manuscripts themselves gained fame and were
bought by the Belgian State upon the death of their owners. These ef-
forts for the preservation of the national cultural heritage thus made way
for the rise of a true professional modern philology. But even before,
from the 1830s onwards, book collecting, philological activity and na-
tional politics gradually merged into one another (Pauwels 2008). The
most striking example in that field will serve as the conclusion to the
present article: the before-mentioned Maetschappy der Vlaemsche Biblio-
philen, the only Dutch-speaking bibliophile society of the time, founded
by Serrure and Blommaert as early as 1839. Judging by the name, it could
easily have been mistaken for yet another club of wealthy collectors, but
its Laws stated unambigiously the society’s higher goals: ‘1. to publish
unpublished documents of literary or historical nature; 2. to reprint rare
books on national history.’ The limited editions on heavy paper were
intended only for the society’s 28 chosen members, the Royal Library
and the university library in Gent. The Belgian State however subsidised
individual editions, bought systematically twenty (and later one hundred)
copies of the less luxurious trade editions of each new title and even
went so far as to buy manuscripts explicitly for editorial work by the
society. Afterwards they were included in the collections of the university
library in Gent (Waterschoot 1990). There is no better example to illus-
284 Jan Pauwels

trate the shift from private to public book collecting and the rise of
Netherlandic philology in nineteenth-century Belgium.

Bethmann, L.C. 1843. Rapport de M. Bethmann, de Hanovre, sur les résultats
de ses recherches historiques dans les bibliothèques de la Belgique, faites en
1839, 1840 et 1841. Messager des sciences historiques, 133-162.
Bibliothèque royale. 1969. Bibliothèque royale: Mémorial 1559-1969. Bruxelles:
Bibliothèque royale.
Bols, Jan. 1909. Brieven aan Jan-Frans Willems. Gent: Koninklijke Vlaamse Aca-
Brinkman, Herman, and Jenny Schenkel. 1999. Het handschrift-Van Hulthem. Hs.
Brussel, Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België, 15.589-623. Hilversum: Verloren.
Broeckx, Corneille. 1863. La chirurgie de Maître Jehan Yperman, chirurgien belge.
Anvers: Buschmann.
Cockx-Indestege, Elly and Marcus de Schepper. 2000. ‘Il n’en existe pas d’autre
exemplaire dans notre littérature’. Handschriften en oude drukken uit de
Nederlanden van C.P. Serrure naar de hertog van Arenberg, en verder. In
Medioneerlandistiek: een inleiding tot de Middelnederlandse letterkunde, eds. Ria
Jansen-Sieben et al., 287-301. Hilversum: Verloren.
Couttenier, Piet. 1998. National Imagery in 19th Century Flemish Literature. In
Nationalism in Belgium: shifting identities, eds. Kas Deprez and Louis Vos, 51-
60. London: Macmillan.
Deprez, Ada. 1963. Briefwisseling van Jan Frans Willems en Hoffmann von Fallersleben.
Gent: Rijksuniversiteit Gent.
Deprez, Ada. 1985. De bibliotheek van dr. F.A. Snellaert: rondom de verwer-
ving door U.B. Gent 1872-1874. Verslagen en mededelingen van de Koninklijke
Academie voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde, 343-391.
Deprez, Ada. 1987. De verwerving en de structuur van de bibliotheek van Dr.
F.A. Snellaert. In Miscellanea Neerlandica: opstellen voor dr. Jan Deschamps, eds.
Elly Cockx-Indestege et. al., 3: 85-96, Leuven: Peeters.
Deschamps, Jan. 1993. Handschriften van Jan Frans van de Velde in de
Koninklijke Bibliotheek te Brussel. In Miscellanea Martin Wittek: album de
codicologie et de paléographie offert à Martin Wittek, eds. Annie Raman et. al., 127-
155. Leuven: Peeters.
Deschamps, Jan. 2004. Constant Philippe Serrure (1805-1872). In E codicibus
impressique: opstellen voor Elly Cockx-Indestege, eds. Frans Hendrickx et. al., 3:
332-391. Leuven: Peeters.
Vander Haeghen, Ferdinand. 1911. Liste sommaire des principaux fonds entrés à la
Bibliothèque de la Ville et de l’Université de Gand. Gent: Vanderhaeghen.
Vander Haeghen, Ferdinand. 1858-1869. Bibliographie gantoise: recherches sur la vie
et les travaux des imprimeurs de Gand (1483-1850). Gent.

Leerssen, Joep. 2004. Literary Historicism: Romanticism, Philologists, and the

Presence of the Past. Modern Language Quartely: 221-243.
Leleux, Fernand. 1965. Charles Van Hulthem 1764-1832. Bruxelles: Académie
royale de Belgique.
Lemaire, Claudine. 1981. Note sur l’activité des ‘agences d’extraction’ adjointes
aux armées de la République dans le Brabant entre 1792 et 1795. Archives et
Bibliothèques de Belgique, 34-50
Janssens, Jeroen. 2005. Van boekendepot tot openbare bibliotheek: de biblio-
theken van de écoles centrales. In Abijdbibliotheken: heden, verleden, toekomst,
eds. Pierre Delsaerdt and Evelien Kayaert, 77-97. Antwerpen: Vereniging
van Antwerpse Bibliofielen.
Machiels, Jeroom. 2000. Des bibliothèques religieuses aux bibliothèques publiques.
Bruxelles: Archives générales du Royaume.
Opdebeeck, Bart. 2004. Boeken uit de bibliotheken van de Engelse jezuïeten-
colleges te Brugge, bewaard in de verzameling ‘Ville de Bruxelles’. In
Boekgeschiedenis in Vlaanderen, eds. Pierre Delsaerdt and Koen De Vlieger-De
Wilde, 79-101. Brussel: Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van België.
Opsomer, Carmélia. 2001. À la recherche des bibliothèques perdues. Bulletin de
l’Académie royale de Belgique: Classe des Lettres, 201-218.
Parliament. 1837. Recueil des pièces imprimés par ordre de la Chambre des Représentants.
Session de 1836-1837. Bruxelles.
Parliament. 1873. Annales parlementaires de Belgique. Session législative ordinaire de
1872-1873. Chambre des Représentants. Bruxelles.
Pauwels, Jan. 2000. Het boekenbezit van Jan Frans Willems, Prudens van
Duyse en Philippe Marie Blommaert. Spiegel der letteren: 259-295.
Pauwels, Jan. 2008. Les seigneurs du livre: Les grands collectionneurs du XIXème siècle à
la Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, eds. M. de Schepper, A. Kelders and J.
Pauwels. Bruxelles : Bibliothèque royale de Belgique.
Smedt, Marcel De. 1989-90. F.A. Snellaert als tekstuitgever. Spiegel der letteren 31:
313-326, 32: 181-193.
Smedt, Marcel De. 2004. F.A. Snellaert als boekenverzamelaar: uit de briefwis-
seling met J.J. Nieuwenhuizen. In Letters in de boeken: liber amicorum Ludo
Simons, eds. P. Delsaerdt and Marcus de Schepper. Kapellen: Pelckmans.
Snellaert, Ferdinand Augustijn. 1847. Bibliotheca Willemsiana. Gand.
Varry, Dominique. 1991. Histoire des bibliothèques françaises: les bibliothèques de la
Révolution et du XIXe sciècle 1789-1914. Paris: Promodis.
Voisin, Auguste. 1840. Documents pour servir à l’histoire des bibliothèques en Belgique et
de leurs principales curiosités littéraires. Gand.
Waterschoot, Werner. 1990. De Maetschappy der Vlaemsche Bibliophilen. Wildert:
De Carbolineum Pers.
Willems, Jan Frans. 1827-1836. Mengelingen van historisch-vaderlandschen inhoud.
Willems, Jan Frans. 1836. Reinaert de vos. Episch fabeldicht van de twaelfde en dertiende
eeuw. Gent.
EUROPEAN STUDIES 26 (2008): 287-303



Marita Mathijsen

Editing procedures for early Dutch literature went through four
stages. Initially, in the eighteenth century, the main concern was the
origins of the Dutch language. Next came a stage (decisively influ-
enced by initiatives of German scholars) of collection and description
with a view to the literary interest of early texts. This is the period
when texts which nowadays still belong to the canon emerged from
archival collections and libraries. The scholars involved also began to
prepare editions by way of a scholarly and, as a rule, individual effort
(third stage). By the 1840s this gave way to a concerted effort by five
unruly Dutch junior scholars to professionalise editing procedures.
They founded the ‘Association for the Advancement of Early Dutch
Literature’, which made its mark with a feverish production of edi-
tions. The Association existed for a mere five years; yet in that short
timespan it managed to alter editorial practice from the ground up
and to effect a complete overhaul of the available knowledge of me-
dieval Dutch literature.

A Preliminary Stage
In the Netherlands, the study of medieval history and the edition of
historical texts took wing due to German influence. It would go too far
to speak of a German invasion of medievalists in the Netherlands of the
first decades of the nineteenth century. Still, one cannot doubt that with-
out the German interest in medieval manuscripts the emergence of such
288 Marita Mathijsen

an interest in the Netherlands would have been much delayed, and that
these manuscripts would have been edited much later.
In what follows, I address the first period of Dutch medieval studies,
which coincides with the first period of editing. It culminates in the
foundation of the Vereeniging ter bevordering van oude Nederlandsche Letter-
kunde (‘Association for the Advancement of Early Dutch Literature’), a
body uniting the first group of scholarly editors in the Netherlands. I
shall elucidate the objectives and the mode of operation of this Associa-
In the process of historical editing, four successive stages may be
distinguished, the Association belonging to the fourth. Incidentally, I
suspect that a similar four-stage development may be encountered in
other countries, too.
By way of a preliminary I should define what I mean when speaking
of an edition. There is no clear-cut boundary line between what one may
still call the renewed publication of an early chapbook and what is already
a scholarly edition. Particularly in the eighteenth century one encounters
medieval stories in publications which deviate but little from those
printed in the sixteenth century, but also publications preceded by a brief
preface pointing at the text’s historical significance. But there are also
editions proper, which provide a commentary and elucidate word mean-
ings. My definition of a scholarly edition requires at a minimum that the
new publication has been overseen by an editor who makes himself
known with his name or his initials, and who regards the text as a histori-
cal artefact in need of elucidation. Furthermore, the editor takes a critical
view of how the text has come down to us. Not required however in
these early stages of editing are comparisons between variant readings or
direct textual criticism.

The First Stage: The Language at the Center

In the early-nineteenth-century Netherlands, medieval studies were still
very much linguistically oriented. There were only a few editions of
Dutch medieval texts. At most some five texts seem to have been pub-
lished which one may call editions in the sense defined.1 Buijnsters
(1984) mentions just four – one of these a mystification. A twelfth-cen-

Jan Rock, Ph. D. student at the University of Amsterdam and member of the
Huygens Institute, is preparing a study of the earliest editions in the Netherlands. Cf.
Rock 2006.

tury monk by the name of Klaas Kolijn was supposed to have written a
rhymed chronicle about Count Dirk of Holland. The fake manuscript
began to cirulate early in the eighteenth century, and soon went through
two editions. Considered in European perspective this was a very early
mystification, fabricated c. 1700 by an engraver and sold to a wealthy
The few editions that were prepared were published as a rule by
antiquarians who, just as elsewhere in Europe, profited from the
opportunity afforded by the disestablishment of the Catholic church in
the Netherlands – the market virtually abounded with manuscripts.
Among eighteenth-century collectors Balthazar Huydecoper stands out.
His primary interest was the language, his ultimate objective to compile
a lexicon of the Dutch language, enabling a reconstruction of pure
Dutch. His lexicon was never published, but tens of thousands of index
cards have been preserved and later linguists have put them to good use.2
The year 1766 saw the foundation of the Maatschappij der Nederlandse
Letterkunde (‘Society for Dutch Literature’), which still exists and which in
the nineteenth century was to become central to the scholarly investiga-
tion of Dutch language and literature. The Society started its activities by
bringing together a library of early manuscripts. Here, too, the produc-
tion of dictionaries was the prime objective.
At that time, then, people were busy collecting from a historical point
of view. Surveys of the literary history of the Netherlands did not yet
exist. The first dates from 1800, and soon more were written. These
earliest literary histories discuss about a dozen medieval texts. Siegen-
beek’s history of Dutch literature (1826) leaves the reader with the im-
pression that no more than some ten texts from the period until 1400
had come down, and not even all of these had been edited. It was as-
sumed that in the Netherlands no literary texts from before the thirteenth
century had been preserved.
Two authors stand at the centre of early literary history, Melis Stoke
and Jacob van Maerlant. Melis Stoke completed his rhymed chronicle of
the counts of Holland around 1305. His work was printed for the first
time in 1591, and the first edition proper was published in 1772 by the
aforementioned Huydecoper, who added ‘notes on early history and on
the language’. Alongside Stoke, the celebrated Flemish Jacob van

Huydecoper is discussed in Stein 2003.
290 Marita Mathijsen

Maerlant, who lived in the thirteenth century, was taken to be the earliest
writer in Dutch. A collector’s collection was not counted complete if the
owner could not boast of a Maerlant manuscript in his possession. He
was regarded as a civic poet, who had managed to disengage from the
uncivilised Middle Ages and whose poetry was directed towards the
spreading of knowledge.
In addition, collectors were aware of a few songs and a few chivalric
tales from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. These were not valued
particularly highly. Huydecoper’s statement is well known: not all manu-
script fragments of poetic works needed to be preserved, it sufficed to
make linguistic notes.

The Second Stage: Collecting and Describing

The systematic investigation of what medieval texts in Dutch still existed
took off rather late. Although Huydecoper habitually took note of all
that met his eye, he must be considered a linguist and lacked literary
The pioneer collector of manuscripts from a literary point of view,
the first to do so consistently, was the celebrated author, linguist, histo-
rian, and lawyer, Willem Bilderdijk. Unlike the antiquarians, whose urge
to collect was of a wholly private nature, Bilderdijk collected manuscripts
with a view to society at large. Upon society, so he felt, rested an obliga-
tion to foster and preserve the treasures of the fatherland. He, too, re-
garded Jacob van Maerlant as the central figure. When Louis Bonaparte,
then king of the Netherlands under the aegis of his brother Napoleon,
founded a Royal Academy in 1808,3 its Section of Literature was chaired
by Bilderdijk. In this capacity he tracked down and purchased manu-
scripts, and also collected materials for a dictionary and prepared editions
(cf. van den Berg 1999).
The most important incentive however came from Germany. In 1811,
Jacob Grimm, librarian to the king of Westphalia, addressed a public
letter Aan Kenners en Liefhebbers der oude Nederlandsche Letterkunde en Dicht-
kunst (‘To the devotees and experts of early Dutch Literature and Po-
etry’), which appeared in a prominent periodical, the Algemeene Konst en
Letterbode (that is, ‘General Messenger of the Arts and Letters’; 2 (1811),

Based on the model of the Academie Française, this Academy (originally named
‘Koninklijk Instituut voor Wetenschappen, Letterkunde en Schoone Kunsten’) was
meant to be the national institution for the advancement of the sciences.

327-330). Grimm realised that the literary heritage of the Dutch and the
Germans were closely related and that all kinds of versions of medieval
stories might well be written down in Lower German varieties of the
language. He sought to get in touch with Dutch linguists and literary
historians, and through one of them he made an appeal to search for
early literary sources. By this he meant not only manuscripts, he also
expressly asked for ‘popular songs still known to elderly people’. No one
yet had directed such a public appeal to a Dutch audience.
A decade later it was once again a German philologist who tried to
elicit an interest in Dutch philology and medieval studies: August Hein-
rich Hoffmann von Fallersleben. He entered the archives in person, and
located the texts that still constitute in good part the medieval canon.
The same periodical which in 1811 had published Grimm’s appeal
printed Hoffmann’s 1821 survey of medieval texts held in a variety of
archival collections (Hoffmann 1821-22). Hoffmann also prepared the
first editions of these and other important medieval Dutch works.
Once again a German, the historian J. Mone, contributed significantly
to the preparation of an inventory of medieval Dutch texts. For a few
years he was professor of history at Louvain university, and in those
years he worked his way through libraries in the Southern Netherlands
and in Northern France. In 1838 appeared his Übersicht der Niederländi-
schen Volks-literatur älterer Zeit. This ‘Survey of Dutch popular literature of
early times’ provides a more extensive bibliographical overview than had
been listed by Hoffmann von Fallersleben. The labours of these two
Germans had in any case made available a highly useful overview of
what literary manuscripts had been preserved in libraries both at home
and abroad. True, these lists were as yet far from complete; even today,
discoveries may still conceivably be made.

The Third Stage: Editing as an Individual Occupation

The editions prepared over the first thirty years of the nineteenth century
follow from the earlier activities in collecting and describing. It is still a
matter of individual proclivity. Collectors/editors may ask the govern-
ment for support, but something in the nature of a shared programme or
shared editing procedures has not yet been conceived.
Once again Willem Bilderdijk must be mentioned first. In 1812 he
published one part of Jacob van Maerlant’s Spieghel Historiael (literally,
292 Marita Mathijsen

‘Mirror of History’, that is, an anecdotal history of the world). That text
was well on its way towards becoming a shibboleth text, by which I
mean a text which forms the point of convergence where nationalism,
early scholarly attention, canon formation, and interest in the literary past
come together. Bilderdijk called van Maerlant ‘the Father of our litera-
ture’. It is interesting that he defended the preparation of a literal, diplo-
matic edition, as against the custom at the time in Germany, where edi-
tors met their supposedly ‘unexperienced’ readers half-way by modernis-
ing the early texts.
Bilderdijk’s introduction to his edition of Jacob van Maerlant’s Spie-
ghel historiael opens with a remarkable statement (Bilderdijk 1812). I para-
phrase: Those who are less experienced in reading early texts find it
convenient to have them modernised a little. Editors wished to help their
readers that way.4 But one should not edit early authors for readers who
are in need of such distortions. They are served better with a translation
into modern Dutch. Who truly wants to read an early text, will wish to
see it in its original guise.
Bilderdijk was not the only individual to engage the editing business.
The editors in this period were most often connected to universities,
where they taught literary history. Some editions prepared by some of
them have later become classic exemplars of editions as they should not
be, for instance, the first edition, by L.G. Visscher, of the important
chivalric tale Ferguut (1838). But in the editing business, too, we once
again encounter German prominence. Jacob Grimm edited texts in medi-
eval Dutch literature, among these the first edition of Van den vos Reinaer-
de, which was taken up in a large-scale Reinhart Fuchs edition of 1834.5
Eduard von Kauler published a series entitled Denkmäler altniederländischer
Sprache und Literatur (1840, ‘Monuments of early Dutch language and
literature’), which contained a Flemish rhymed chronicle. Hoffmann von
Fallersleben prepared more editions than anybody else. His publications
already fit in with the next stage, which can no longer be called individ-
ual and which is clearly marked off from the third stage by its program-
matic and scholarly nature.

Bilderdijk must be thinking here of philologists like Von der Hagen and Büsching
who unlike the Grimms were indeed in the habit of modernizing their texts.
The history of the Reinhart editions and the way in which editors sought to score
off each other, is described in Leerssen 2006.

The Fourth Stage: Editing as a Scholarly Activity: The ‘Association for the Ad-
vancement of Early Dutch Literature’
Hoffmann von Fallersleben is the man whose labours truly opened up
the great medieval texts which still form the Dutch canon. He began a
series Horae Belgicae (‘The Horae of the Low Countries’), for which he
edited texts yet unknown, such as Karel ende Elegast and Floris ende Blance-
floer (both in 1836).6 Even so, we do not meet with more truly scholarly
ambitions until the activities of those philologists who set out to form
what they called the ‘New School’. These men turned against the editing
procedures of their Dutch predecessors, but also against those of Hoff-
mann von Fallersleben, which they deemed unprofessional. Their real
preference is for Lachmann’s procedures, but in their first editions they
still lack the courage to move in one bold jump from diplomatic to criti-
cal editing. They have a programme; they debate editing procedures, and
they work as a scholarly team, complete with the quarrels that tend to
accompany such practices. I shall now address the objectives and proce-
dures of these editors, who came together in the Vereeniging ter bevordering
van oude Nederlandsche letterkunde or ‘Association for the Advancement of
Early Dutch Literature’.
Around 1840, a young generation of philologists began to criticise
earlier collectors and individual editors as amateurish dabblers, and they
proclaimed their intent to edit early texts in a professional manner. At
least three motives inspired them. There was in the first place an aware-
ness that something was wrong in the Netherlands if the edition of early
manuscripts depended on Germans and Flemish. There was also a gener-
ational impetus: the young generation found that their predecessors had
bungled their editions, lacking both sufficient knowledge of the language
and a thorough investigation of the times in which a manuscript had
originated. Thirdly, they were moved by a sense that early literature was
misunderstood. Maerlant in his dull didacticism was being praised to the
skies, so they felt, whereas a far earlier, more romantic literature from the
twelfth and thirteenth centuries remained unknown. Already in 1842
young Matthias de Vries wrote to Jan Tideman that he wanted his fellow
literary historians to apply themselves to early texts:
Dat tijdperk onzer letterkunde is het eigentlijk, dat te veel verwaarloosd en
miskend wordt. Het hooge belang daarvan is ons door Duitschers geleerd,

Cf. Herman Brinkman’s article in this volume.
294 Marita Mathijsen

en niets in ons vak dringender noodzakelijk, dan die letterkunde aan het
licht te brengen, wier kostbaarste gedenkstukken nog den slaap der vergetel-
heid sluimeren. (...) Bedenk dan toch, hoe de Walewein, hoe de kinderen
van Limborch, hoe de Leekenspieghel (...) hoe eene massa oude
meesterstukken om regt schreeuwt en niemand hen hoort, hen, die nog
niemand ooit het licht deed zien.7
And here is how, in a review in the prominent journal De Gids, another
representative of the young generation, Willem Jonckbloet, urged the
message upon his readers:
Eens en voor altijd dus: neen, onze letterkunde vangt niet aan met de helft
der dertiende eeuw; het is van dien tijd, dat haar verval dagteekent. Van
1150 tot 1270 heeft eene dichterlijke school gebloeid, rijk aan verbeelding.8
As is the case with so much in the nineteenth century, the new school
marches under the banner of nationalism. The literature of the father-
land, its early period included, is extolled for its high aesthetic merits and
as a witness to an uncorrupted, poetic language. All this serves the new
generation to justify their appeal for state support — the government
should acknowledge the existence of so fine an early literature and subsi-
dise its being edited. To be sure, in voicing these nationalist sentiments
they do not deviate from the Old School they are opposing.

The Association originated with the friendship between an archivist and
a student, both living in Utrecht. The archivist, P.J. Vermeulen, had in
1840 addressed a letter to his colleagues with a plan to found a literary
association capable of publishing early manuscripts and incunabula.
Foreign examples, such as the Stuttgarter Verein, had inspired him. He
regretted in particular that numerous small editions and studies appeared

28 May 1842: ‘That, after all, is the period in our literature that is being neglected
and underestimated too much. The Germans have taught us its high importance, and
nothing in our discipline is more urgently required than to bring to light that literature,
the most precious monuments of which still dose in oblivion. (...) Pray remind yourself
how Walewein, how the children of Limborch, how the Leekenspieghel (...), how a
mass of early masterpieces cries out for justice and how no one hears them, they who
have never yet seen the light of day.’
The records of the Vereeniging, which contain these letters, are at Leiden University,
Ltk 1519.
Jonckbloet 1846, 3: ‘Once and for all, then: No, our literature does not start by the
middle of the thirteenth century. That is rather where we must date its decay. From
1150 to 1270 flourished a poetic school rich in imagination.’

in obscure little yearbooks, so that one could not acquire an overview.

But Vermeulen failed to strike a chord. Later he got in touch with the
young student Jan Tideman, who had been charged by the Society for
Dutch Literature to describe an early drama collection.
Tideman and Vermeulen now jointly conceived of the plan to found
an association. Tideman talked some of his fellow students into joining
the editorial board, the classicist Matthias de Vries and the theologian
Jacob de Hoop Scheffer. Both had already published a few small pieces
about literary matters. Scheffer came up with Pieter Leendertz, a clergy-
man, and de Vries produced Willem Jonckbloet, who had just completed
his literary studies and who was the most experienced of them all in that
he had already published highly important editions of entirely unknown
texts such as the Beatrijs. Naturally, in responding to the letter of invita-
tion Jonckbloet took pains to arrogate the plan to himself. He replied
that he had already envisaged founding such an association, but had not
done so because he could not imagine anyone in the Netherlands willing
to support it. However, now that collaboration has become feasible ‘each
of us must take up the labour that his hands direct him to undertake. (...)
I for one am ready and prepared to make highly important contri-
On the first of June 1843 a letter went out, entitled Berigt wegens eene
Vereeniging ter bevordering der oude Nederlandsche Letterkunde (‘Message re-
garding an Association for the Advancement of Early Dutch Literature’,
Ltk 1519), in which those addressed were called upon to become mem-
bers of an association committed to publish at least 800 pages a year, for
an annual subscription price of six guilders. The signatories appeal to
every ‘Vriend en beoefenaar der Vaderlandsche letterkunde’ (‘Friend and
practitioner of the literature of the fatherland’) to endorse and support
the plan. Their particular objective is to call attention to our early litera-
ture: ‘het zal wel onnoodig zijn op het hoogstbelangrijke dier Letter-
kunde te wijzen, of te herinneren, hoe zij ons onze taal in haren oudsten
en zuiversten toestand leert kennen’ (‘It surely goes without saying to
point at the high importance of that literature, or to remind you how it
acquaints us with our language at its earliest and purest’).

Cf. Gerritsen 1991, 174-175: ‘ (...) moet ieder onzer het werk aanvatten dat zijne
hand vindt om te doen.(...) Ik ben in staat en gereed hoogst belangrijke bijdragen te
296 Marita Mathijsen

It took a while before a sufficient number of subscriptions had come

in. The correspondence between Matthias de Vries and Tideman shows
that letters had gone out to everyone active in the discipline; to German
and Belgian professional scholars, and to all members of the Society for
Dutch Literature. But the booksellers remained lukewarm. They asserted
that they had circulated the lists, but upon inquiries made with potential
recipients this turned out not to be so. De Vries then went ahead to
recruit members among his own acquaintances. Several months later
there were enough members to put the Association on its way. Three
hundred and sixty-one members for the first year, with some resounding
names among them. Not only are all Grand Old Men of the discipline in
the Netherlands represented, but renowned names from abroad, notably
Jacob Grimm and Karl Lachmann, are among the subscribers, too. The
king and the crown prince of the Netherlands subscribed as well, and the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs procured for itself ten copies (a form of state
subsidy then currently practised).
The first meeting took place on 4 October 1843. Financial matters
were settled; the programme was established; the board was elected, and
arrangements were made with the publisher. Vermeulen was elected
chairman, Tideman secretary. The first part of the Works of the Associa-
tion appeared several months later, in 1844.

The records of that first meeting have been preserved. Agreement was
reached over who would do what. Jonckbloet was to start with the ‘Ro-
man der Lorreinen’; De Vries with ‘Der Leken Spieghel’; Tideman with
‘Dboec van den Houte’, and Leendertz with ‘Der Minnen Loep’. In
practice things went a little different. In course of the first year, 1844,
three parts appeared, which contained part of the didactic poem Der
leeken spieghel from 1330; Jacob van Maerlant’s Dboec van den Houte from
roughly the same time, and a romance about Charlemagne, Karel de Groote
en zijne 12 pairs. The respective editors were de Vries, Tideman and
Jonckbloet. The speed with which they worked was remarkable (particu-
larly so if one considers that present-day professional editors usually
need years to complete an edition). Not only did they provide copies of
texts hitherto unpublished, but they also compared other versions and
fragments that had come down. Furthermore, they set up a glossary

meant in the end to lead to the publication of a dictionary of medieval

In the years to follow six editions were completed, some quite
voluminous. Der leken spieghel (‘Mirror of laymen’), which de Vries edited,
was the most voluminous of them all, and comprised six parts.
Maerlant’s Dboec van den houte, edited by Tideman, was completed in the
first year, as was Jonckbloet’s edition of Karel de Groote en zijne 12 pairs.
The second volume opened with another voluminous edition, Der minnen
loep (‘The course of love’); a didactic poem written by Dirc Potter in the
early 15th century on love silly, good, illicit, and permitted. The entire
poem which Leendertz edited comprised four volumes. No less spectac-
ular is the first edition of the Roman van Walewein by Jonckbloet, in two
parts. The final title is once again a religious work by Jacob van
Maerlant, Sinte Franciscus Leven (‘The life of St Francis’), edited by
Tideman. To sum up the numbers: seventeen parts comprising six edi-
tions published by four editors, with Tideman and Jonckbloet responsi-
ble for two editions each.
With the exception of Der minnen loep, these works date indeed from
the earliest times of Dutch literature. The most remarkable thing about
them is that some have still not been replaced by new editions — for
three of the six the edition published by the Association has so far re-
mained the only one.

Scholarly Outlook
The new generation of philologists, united in the Association, left noth-
ing undone to promote themselves as innovators. They called themselves
‘the new school’, so as to mark themselves off from an established ‘old
school’. They felt that the cultivation of early literature had so far been in
the hands of dilettantes, and that responsible scholarly editing started
with the Association. Before and during the period of the New School
one may roughly speak of three directions. Grimm’s direction, followed
in the Netherlands by Bilderdijk, stood for the literal, diplomatic rendi-
tion of texts. Hoffmann von Fallersleben aimed at a far-reaching nor-
malisation of manuscripts, self-evidently including the making of correc-
tions, in accordance with the idea that a normative construction of the
language of a given century can be attained. But the new development
was the one pioneered by Karl Lachmann, aiming for a critical rendition
of the texts based upon a comparative investigation of variants in the
298 Marita Mathijsen

lineage of textual transmission. The New School directed its critique not
so much against any of these three directions as, rather, against the indi-
viduals involved.
Jonckbloet in particular made his views loudly known. In reviews
published in the leading literary journal of those years, De Gids, but also
in his editions and in separate treatises he scolded his predecessors in an
often crass vocabulary. He chose for his prize victim a professor past his
prime, B.H. Lulofs, who had compiled an anthology of medieval Dutch
literature. In a letter to a friend Jonckbloet observed:
Om mij wat te verpoozen heb ik dezer dagen het beestachtig slechte Hand-
boek van prof. Lulofs eens uitgekleed: gij zult die man in de Gids van ja-
nuari eerstkomend spiernaakt (...) in het publiek zien staan. Ik heb bij die
gelegenheid zoowat mijne opinie gezegd over de geheele oude school. Het
werd tijd dat men die heeren de tanden eens liet zien.. (...) O dat verdoemde
And in De Gids itself he expresses himself thus:
Het is meer dan eens gezegd, en met bewijzen gestaafd, dat de beoefening
der oude Nederlandsche letteren (...) geleden heeft door een dilettantisme
dat regts en links, zonder bepaald doel, beuzelend, zonder systeem, zonder
overtuiging, in plaats van de wetenschap, eene schrale, onvruchtbare
liefhebberij heeft daargesteld!11
Jonckbloet goes on to upbraid Lulofs for his false representations and
for his incompleteness and lack of consistency, all of which he demon-
strates with various examples of the lack of expertise in grammar and
What kind of editions, then, did the New School put forward in
contrast to the Old School? In organisation and execution all editions
prepared by the Association look the same. Most often the text begins
right after the title page. Most summarily in the margin one finds an

Ltk 1095: ‘I have entertained myself these days by stripping to the bone Profes-
sor Lulofs’ dreadfully incompetent textbook – in the January installment of De Gids
you shall find him exposed stark naked (...) before the readership. I have used the
occasion to speak my mind about the entire old school. It was about time to show
these gentlemen our teeth. (...) Oh, that damned dilettantism!’
Jonckbloet 1846, 3: ‘It has been said more than once, and proofs have been given
for it, that the cultivation of early Dutch literature (...) has suffered from a dilettantism
that to the right and to the left, devoid of any well-determined objective, full of drivel
and without conviction, has represented a meagre and fruitless amateurism rather than
true scholarship!’

indication whether more than one version exists. At the page bottom the
variants are rendered in a negative lemma-apparatus. This is followed by
a general explanation, by notes, and by a glossary. The notes may serve
to elucidate the manuscript but may also add historical explanations to
the text; they are rather concise. The glossary is mostly comparative; that
is, the editor lists other forms of a given word and other works where it
occurs as well.
There is nonetheless a curious discrepancy between the outbursts of
jubilation with which the members of the Association address their own
innovations in the domain of literature, and the direction they actually
follow. The statutes lay it down that they shall publish their editions
‘with diplomatic accuracy’. But this was no longer in conformity with the
editorial innovations of the time. De Vries and Jonckbloet, in particular,
had given up their erstwhile belief in diplomatic editing. Both men
sulkingly comply with the agreement, while indicating clearly that they
expect more from Lachmann’s method and that they prefer critical edi-
tions. Indeed, Jonckbloet goes so far as to publish a critical edition en-
tirely unconnected to the Association and without taking any of its rules
into account.
Already in the first annual report we encounter debate. Tideman
We geven onze stukken diplomatiesch, dat is met de grootst mogelijke
naauwkeurigheid, uit, zoodat wij, na de gewone verkortingen aangevuld te
hebben, het handschrift letterlijk weergeven. Het is ons geenszins onbe-
kend, dat wij wegens deze wijze van uitgeven, die hier te lande tot nog toe
meestal gevolgd werd, door Hoogduitsche geleerden van den eersten rang
zijn aangevallen, die voor iedere eeuw eene grammatica, op de lezing der
hun bekende stukken gegrond, hebben vastgesteld, en alle latere hand-
schriften diensvolgens met eene zoogenaamde Rechtschreibung in het licht
geven. Doch wij hebben gemeend in dezen onze eigene overtuiging te
moeten blijven volgen.12

Tideman 1895, 31: ‘We edit our pieces the diplomatic way, that is, with the
greatest possible accuracy so that, upon expanding the customary abbreviations, we
render the manuscript literally. We know very well that because of this editorial proce-
dure, which has most often been followed in this country, we have been attacked by
German scholars of the first rank. These scholars have established a grammar for
every century, founded upon a reading of the pieces known to them, so as to publish
all later manuscripts in the so-called Rechtschreibung [orthography]. We, however,
have decided in this to follow our own conviction.’
300 Marita Mathijsen

In the Association’s view, early Dutch grammar and spelling have not yet
been examined sufficiently to make normalisation possible.
Jonckbloet’s and de Vries’ editions show clearly that they felt bound
hand and feet by the agreement. Jonckbloet writes in Karel de Groote (‘Char-
lemagne’) that the manuscript has been printed the diplomatic way, with
all its mistakes and defects, not because he personally thinks that a criti-
cal edition would be premature, but because the homogeneity of the
editorial board requires it (Jonckbloet 1844, XXX-XXXI).

Quarrels and Troubles; The End

It soon became impossible to speak of unity in the Association. The first
troubles began even before it was formally founded, when de Vries
shared with Tideman his annoyance that everyone credited Jonckbloet
with the initiative. A second conflict arose over one of Jonckbloet’s
publications. Just as Hoffmann von Fallersleben had wandered all over
the Netherlands to find early texts, just so had Jonckbloet made a trip
through Germany to discover Dutch manuscripts in archival collections
and libraries. He had promised his report to the Association, but gave it
to De Gids, which enjoyed wider distribution than the Association’s pub-
lications. De Vries was furious, and refused to publish the report a sec-
ond time, as Jonckbloet had proposed. Here is what de Vries wrote to
Tideman (4 December 1843):
Onze vereeniging behoeft den schotel niet uit te likken, als het Jonckbloet
behaagt heeft de taart door den Gids te laten opeten. En welk een taart
nogal! Een taaije, zonder geur of kruiderij.13
This conflict was smoothed out, but soon Tideman complained about de
Vries, who has taken the liberty to make alterations in his glossary and
who has exploded ‘in ludicrous anger’ over his commentaries to
Maerlant’s Dboec van den houtte. The next conflict involves Jonckbloet
once more, as he has published a critical edition outside the frame of the
Association – an action deeply resented by the other members of the
board. Jonckbloet defended himself by pointing out that a critical edition
did not fit into the principles of the Association.

Ltk 1515: ‘There is no need for our Association to lick clean the plate after it has
pleased Jonckbloet to give the cake over to be eaten by De Gids. And what a cake!
Hard to chew on, without smell or spices.’

In 1895, many years after the Association has fallen apart, Tideman,
by now an old man, wrote its history, which he used to settle old scores.
He still felt slighted that in the public eye Jonckbloet had come to count
as the principal leader of the Association.
In the journal’s fifth year the editorial board inserted a note that the
number of members was diminishing, and that government support was
insufficient to continue. Furthermore, the work had been done. The
board has contributed to cultivating the literature of the fatherland, and
it now wished to dedicate itself to other labours. The note is cool, but
everything goes to show that the editorial board cannot advance any
further in the accustomed manner. Two members had failed to contrib-
ute to the efforts, Tideman remained the only one still to defend diplo-
matic transcription, and both de Vries and Jonckbloet were awaiting
appointments to prestigious professorial chairs. The objective had been
attained in that the existence of an earlier literature has been acknowl-
edged and Maerlant no longer counted as ‘the father of the fatherland’s

The Association is an early example of scholarly collaboration. Jonck-
bloet is among the first to formulate an opposition between academic
and non-academic research, marking the start of the professionalisation
of Dutch studies. Given the period when they were prepared, the edi-
tions published by the Association do indeed attain a high level of
achievement. Some are still the only available edition of the text in ques-
tion; not as if we were not in need of a newer publication but simply
because no-one has taken the time and effort to edit them in accordance
with present-day standards. In that respect de Vries’ words are still as
valid as ever: ‘eene massa oude meesterstukken schreeuwt om recht en
niemand, niemand hoort hen’ – a mass of early masterpieces cries out for
justice and no one, no one hears them.
302 Marita Mathijsen

Ltk: Collection Tideman. LTK 1519, LTK 1519, LTK 1095 Maatschappij der
Nederlandse Letterkunde. University Library, Leiden.

Algemeene konst- en letterbode 2 (1811).
van den Berg, Willem. 1999. De Tweede Klasse: een afdeling met een
problematische missie (1808-1816). In Een bedachtzame beeldenstorm, 137-165.
Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
Biesheuvel, Ingrid. 2003. Strijd tegen dilettanten. Willem Joseph Andries Jonck-
bloet (1817-1885). In Der vaderen boek. Beoefenaren van de studie der Middel-
nederlandse letterkunde. Studies voor Frits van Oostrom ter gelegenheid van diens vijftig-
ste verjaardag, ed. Wim van Anrooij et al., 49-60, 259-262, 295-297. Amster-
dam: Amsterdam University Press.
[Bilderdijk, Willem]. 1812. Voorbericht. In Jacob van Maerlant, Spieghel historiael
of Rijmkroniek. 3e deel met aanteekeningen van Jan Steenwinkel, Uitgegeven
door de Tweede Klasse van het Hollandsch Instituut, VIII-IX. Amsterdam.
van Boven, Erica. 1980. Lulofs en Siegenbeek contra Jonckbloet en De Vries:
een wedstrijd in ‘scholen’? Een bijdrage aan de geschiedenis van de
Neerlandistiek. In Wie veel leest heeft veel te verantwoorden… Opstellen over filologie
en historische letterkunde aangeboden aan prof. dr. F. Lulofs, ed. M.M.H. Bax et al.,
190-215. Groningen: Nederlands Instituut
de Buck, H. 1931. De studie van het Middelnederlandsch tot in het midden der negentien-
de eeuw. Groningen: Wolters.
Buijnsters, P.J. 1984. Kennis van en waardering voor Middelnederlandse litera-
tuur in de 18e eeuw. Documentatieblad Werkgroep 18e eeuw 16.61-62: 39-58.
Colenbrander, Dieneke. 1980. Vereeniging ter Bevordering der Oude
Nederlandsche Letterkunde. In Wie veel leest heeft veel te verantwoorden… Opstel-
len over filologie en historische letterkunde aangeboden aan prof. dr. F. Lulofs, ed.
M.M.H. Bax et al., 216-232. Groningen: Nederlands Instituut.
van Dalen-Oskam, Karina. 2003. De idealistische lexicograaf. Matthias de Vries
(1820-1892). In Der vaderen boek. Beoefenaren van de studie der Middelnederlandse
letterkunde. Studies voor Frits van Oostrom ter gelegenheid van diens vijftigste verjaar-
dag, ed. Wim van Anrooijet al., 61-75, 262-264, 297-298. Amsterdam: Am-
sterdam University Press.
Gerritsen, W.P. 1991. ‘De lust voor dezen studietak’. De medioneerlandicus en
zijn publiek.. In Misselike tonghe. De Middelnederlandse letterkunde in interdiscipli-
nair verband, ed. F.P.van Oostrom et al., 171-187; 231-234. Amsterdam:
Hoffmann von Fallersleben, A.H. 1821. Over de oude Hollandsche letter-
kunde. Algemeene konst- en letterbode.

Jonckbloet, W.J.A., ed. 1844. Roman van Karel den Grooten en zijne XII pairs
(fragmenten). Leiden.
Jonckbloet, W.J.A. 1846. [Review of] B.H. Lulofs, Handboek . De Gids 10: 1-56.
Laan, Nico. 1997. Het belang van smaak. Twee eeuwen academische literatuurgeschiedenis.
Amsterdam: Historisch Seminarium van de Universiteit van Amsterdam.
Leerssen, Joep. 2006. De bronnen van het vaderland: Taal, literatuur en de afbakening
van Nederland, 1806-1890. Nijmegen: Vantilt.
Miltenburg, A.P.J. 1991. Naar de gesteldheid dier tyden. Middeleeuwen en mediëvistiek in
Nederland in de negentiende eeuw. Vier studies. Hilversum: Verloren.
Rock, Jan. 2006. Literary Monuments and Editor’s Jokes: Nationalism and
Professionalisation in Editions of Lodewijk van Velthem’s Spiegel Historiael
(1727-1906). Variants: The Journal of the European Society for Textual Scholarship
5: 285-314.
Stein, Robert. 2003 De heer Huydecoper bezit ze; maar wie meer? Balthazar
Huydecoper (1695-1778). In Der vaderen boek. Beoefenaren van de studie der
Middelnederlandse letterkunde. Studies voor Frits van Oostrom ter gelegenheid van diens
vijftigste verjaardag, ed. Wim van Anrooij, Dini Hogenelst, Geert Warnar,
11.21. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
Tideman, J. 1895. De Vereeniging ter Bevordering der Oude Nederlandsche Letterkunde.
(1843-1850.) Bijdrage tot de geschiedenis van de Nederlandsche letterkunde in de
negentiende eeuw. ’s Gravenhage.
Verslagen en berigten uitgegeven door de Vereeniging ter Bevordering der Oude Nederland-
sche Letterkunde 1-5 (1844-1848).
EUROPEAN STUDIES 26 (2008): 305-317


Joep Leerssen

Taking the case of a book series claiming to be a ‘Library of the
Complete German National Literature’ (running from 1835 until the
early 1860s), this article looks at the emergence of a readership for
the medieval classics in what was, around these decades, becoming a
self-evidently national canon. The commercially-driven enterprise is
here presented, not only in the context of the ongoing professionali-
sation and growing academic prestige and ethos of the philologies,
but also in its competition with the dissemination forum of biblio-
phile societies with publications-for-members. Between sociability,
academic careerism and a widening appeal of ‘nationality’, the popu-
larisation and nationwide acceptance of the idea of a ‘national litera-
ture’ as a self-evident taxonomic unit is here traced in its early, hesi-
tant beginnings.

In 1835, the bookseller and publisher Gottfried Basse, based in Quedlin-

burg and Leipzig, launched a book series under the ambitious title ‘Li-
brary of the Complete German National Literature’ (Bibliothek der gesamm-
ten deutschen National-Literatur). The series ran until 1861 and produced 38
volumes in all; it was flanked by a ‘second series’ with critical studies (6
vols. in all), and an incidental ‘third series’ which went dormant after an
initial volume (1835). Among the texts published in it were Kudrun,
Theuerdank, the Kaiserchronik, Floris und Blanscheflur, Brant’s Narrenschiff and
Lohengrin. Even in today’s libraries, those researching nineteenth-century
editions of medieval German literature will find Basse’s Bibliothek a ro-
bust presence.
306 Joep Leerssen

Its guiding principles were threefold: nationality, completeness and

canonicity. As the announcement put it:
Von den frühesten Denkmalen, die uns erhalten sind, bis auf die neuere
Zeit soll kein Werk, das auf Klassizität Anspruch macht oder in unsrer
Nationalliteratur für das Studium unsrer Sprache von Wichtigkeit oder zur
Kenntnis der nationalen Bildung einzelner Perioden von Bedeutung ist, in
dieser Bibliothek fehlen.1
The phraseology is significant at almost every turn. The notion of ‘classi-
cal status’ or Klassizität is remarkable in that it is applied, not to the
canon of classical antiquity but to a vernacular with its medieval epics
and romances. The notion of Nationalliteratur or ‘national literature’ has
by now obviously gained wide acceptance, but is as yet a neologism and
spelled in hyphenated form. What is old-fashioned in this appellation is
that ‘literature’ is not yet used in the post-Romantic meaning, as a body
of writing remarkable and valuable by virtue of its artistic and poetical
merits, but that the term obviously covers the entire field of belles lettres,
in the traditionally-established but obsolescent meaning: any text impor-
tant for linguistic or intellectual reasons.
Also worth highlighting is the appellation of Bibliothek. The ideal of
completeness (‘no work should be omitted’) is a librarian’s one, and
emphasizes that a series of books, broadcast into a nationwide market,
constitutes a ‘library’ – a term traditionally used, not only for a given
collection of books, but also for the space in which that collection is
placed together. In the latter sense, the term Bibliothek is metaphorical, or,
to use a more fashionable word, ‘virtual’. Printed matter (periodicals,
series) as a virtual place of congregation: that metaphor is on the rise in
these decades and illustrates the important role that the printing press
was beginning to play in creating national ‘imagined communities’. Peri-
odicals might have names like ‘Magazine’, ‘Atheneaum’, ‘Museum’, ‘Fo-

Dammann 1924,7: ‘From the earliest monuments which have come down to us to
the modern period, no work should be omitted from this library that can claim classi-
cal status or that is important in our national literature either for the study of our
language or for our understanding of the nation’s learning in successive periods.’ Most
of the information on Basse’s venture given in the following pages is from Dammann’s
book, and from inspection of the actual volumes (listed in the appendix to this article)
in the Widener Library, Harvard. For biographical information on the various scholars
involved I have relied on the AdB 1875-1912.

rum’ or indeed ‘Library’,2 and signal by such names that they unite a
dispersed readership into a virtual concourse. And in many cases, the
‘imagined community’ constituted thereby (the insistent use of the first-
person plural our is noteworthy) is explicitly signalled as a national one:
nation-wide in its geographical dispersal, united in its common interest
and reading. Thus, the idea of publication plays subliminally but insis-
tently on the related concepts of a public and of the public spaces and
spheres where that public congregates.
The publisher, Basse, was trying to move with the times. The firm
had been active since the early nineteenth century and had become noto-
rious in the early 1820s for trying to cash in on the success of Goethe’s
Wilhelm Meister by publishing forgeries spuriously credited to the author of
the Wanderjahre. In a way, the roots of the Basse publishing house were
close to the murky ‘underworld’ of the book trade where seditious libels
(anti-Napoleonic in this case) went hand in hand with cheap novelettes
of dubious moral calibre. However, after the firm had been taken over
by Gottfried Basse, it attempted to catch the wave of national and liter-
ary historicism that was sweeping Germany, and to which it contributed
the new wide dissemination potential of their large-volume printing tech-
niques. Basse himself was among the early adopters of lithographic tech-
nique. His publications were printed on cheap woodpulp paper, recently
invented. His position in Germany is comparable, in this respect, to that
of the publisher Duffy in Ireland from the 1840s onwards, one of the
first to use stereotype print on cheap paper; with his high output and
social penetration, Duffy became the premier publisher for Irish
nationalism, ranging from devotional Catholic literature to the Irish
nationalist newspaper The Nation, the best-selling anthology The Spirit of
the Nation and the tellingly-named series ‘The Library of Ireland’ (cf.
Leerssen 1996, 3).

Between bibliophile and national enthusiasm: Text Societies

National Literature was begining to be a commercially promising pub-
lishing venture and aimed at wider readership circles. The commercial
platform had to wedge itself into a market that was dominated by two
other modes of book dissemination: that of the scholarly publications

Such names are superimposed on older ones that echo the origin of the periodical
as a newsletter, or else periodicals that play on a notion of mediating social gossip
(Spectator, Observer, Tatler).
308 Joep Leerssen

often produced by printing houses with university links, and that of the
private bibliophile association. Text Societies had an important role
everywhere in Europe from the early 1800s onwards. In Central and
Eastern Europe, there were the matica rading (and publishing) societies,
or the Gelehrte Gesellschaft of Dorpat (present-day Tallinn). Britain is
particularly rich in examples of bibliophile-antiquarian book clubs: thus
the Camden Society for the publication of Early Historical and Literary
Remains (founded 1838), the Percy Society (founded 1840) and the
Bannatyne Club (on which, see Ferris 2005); following in the footsteps
of the old private associations of bibliophile collectors of facsimiles
(such as the Roxburghe Club) they paved the way at the same time for
more academic associations such as the Early English Texts Society
(founded in 1864). In Ireland there was the Irish Archaeological Society,
with links to the Royal Irish Academy, and its slightly more down-market
counterpart the Ossianic Society (which worked, significantly, with the
aforementioned publisher James Duffy; cf. generally Murray 2000). Simi-
larly poised between academic learning and private collecting was the
Belgian Maetschappij der Vlaemsche Bibliophilen. In Holland, the more aca-
demic Vereeniging ter bevordering der oude Nederlandsche letterkunde fits the
same European pattern.3 Just how ‘national’ such Texts Societies could
become, can be seen from the case of the Société des ancien textes français,
founded on the model of the Early English Texts Society with Paulin
Paris as the first president. Its first annoucement declares its na-
tional-mindedness in terms that must be seen in the bitter post-1871
climate to be fully appreciated:
Nous faisons appel (...) à tous ceux qui aiment la France de tous les temps,
à tous ceux qui croient qu'un peuple qui répudie son passé prépare mal son
avenir, et à tous ceux qui savent que la conscience nationale n'est pleine et
vivante que si elle relie dans un sentiment profond de solidarité les gé-
nérations présentes à celles qui se sont éteintes
Again, the 1877 report by Paulin Paris’s son Gaston Paris (1839-1903)
links the memory of Roland’s heroic defeat at Roncesvaux to post-1871
revanchisme, when he explains that the Société’s members pay their dues

For the Flemish society, see the contribution by Pauwels. As is pointed out in
Marita Mathijsen’s contribution, the Dutch Maetschappij was inspired by the Literarischer
Verein of Stuttgart. See also Fischer 1914 and more generally Arnold 1991.

(...) parce qu’on leur a dit: La Société des anciens textes français est une oeuvre
nationale; elle a pour but de faire mieux connaître la vieille France; elle veut
que l’Allemagne ne soit plus le pays d’Europe où il s’imprime le plus de
monuments de notre langue et de notre littérature d’autrefois; (...) elle a
besoin de l’appui (...) de tous ceux qui qui savent que la piété envers les
aïeux est le plus fort ciment d’une nation, de tous ceux qui sont jaloux du
rang intellectuel et scientifique de notre pays entre les autres peuples, de
tous ceux qui aiment dans tous les siècles de son histoire cette ‘France
douce’ pour laquelle on savait déjà si bien mourir à Roncevaux.4
Thus the establishment of a national-literary society had the evident
added motivation and effect of mobilizing readers in a nationalist sense
by means of historicist literacy. That link between literary historicism,
sociability and nationalism is as strong in the emerging nations of Central
and Eastern Europe, with their matica’s and chitaliste, as it is in the more
well-established countries of Western Europe with their book clubs and
bibliophile societies. These societies in themselves form an intermediary
layer between the high-prestige academic editions, often sponsored by
government agencies or national academies and carried out by the coun-
try’s leading scholars, and new associations uniting a wider readership of
amateurs, with roots in the exclusive, bibliophile connoisseur-clubs of
the previous generation but branching out into a middle-class constitu-
ency. From there it is a small step to the proverbial type of prestigious-
looking book sets in showy uniform bindings which would, by the end
of the century, be displayed in the drawing room bookcases of the edu-
cated bourgeoisie. By the end of the nineteenth century, Europe’s
Bildungsbürgertum would have no hesitation in considering these medieval
texts as Basse had first presented them in 1835: ‘classics’ in the canon of
a ‘national literature’, by now firmly established after having been dis-

Quoted Ridoux 2001, 412: ‘We call upon all those who love the France of all
ages, all those who believe that a nation which repudiates its past is ill-placed to pre-
pare its future, and to all those who know that the national conscience can only be full
and alive if it joins, in deeply-felt solidarity, the present generations with the dead
ones.’ ‘because they have been told that the Société des anciens textes français is a national
undertaking; that its aim is to make the Old France better known; that it wants to put
an end to the situation where Germany is the European country that prints most of
the monuments of our ancient language and literature; that it needs the support of all
those who realize that the piety towards our ancestors is the strongest cement that
binds a nation, of all those to whom the intellectual and academic standing of our
country amidst other nations is a point of honour, of all those who love, across the
centuries of its history, that douce France for which one was willing to die bravely even
at Roncesvaux.’
310 Joep Leerssen

seminated and revived in various modern adapations, canonized in the

handbooks of Literary History and enshrined in the school curricula.
This also made commercial publication of the Classics of National Liter-
ature a profitable enterprise.
But in the 1830s and 1840s, the middle position for wide-dissemina-
tion publication was as yet tenuous between the austere and technical
editions of academics, and the facsimile reprints destined only for a small
circle of associates. Enterprises like Basse’s Bibliothek were ahead of their
time, and found it difficult to carve out a viable commercial-popular
market share alongside the high-prestige academic publication and the
thriving Text Edition Societies. It is a telling fact that one of the early
collaborators, Adalbert Keller,5 was later elected president of one of the
foremost philological Texts Societies of Germany, the Literarischer Verein
of Stuttgart (founded in 1838, with an output of some 200 volumes in
the course of the century).

Academic Professionalization and Philological Pecking orders

Basse was eager to enlist authoritative philologists who would give aca-
demic prestige to his venture. The edition of early national texts had
become a matter of considerable academic importance, and philological
editing was therefore riddled with professional jealousy and competition.
In the decades between 1800 and 1820, we see the establishment of
the first university chairs of literature and literary history alongside the
older chairs of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres – often given to scholars in
combination with an appointment as university librarian. Accordingly, we
see the study of literature move from the classical and classicist canon to
the archival material found and opened up by the philologists; and we
see this emergent discipline work in close association with the older
disciplines of jurisprudence and classical studies, and develop a new style
of literary history-writing that combines the old antiquarian disquisitions
with the methods of romantic historiography.

Keller (1812-1883) was a former student of Uhland and a specialist in the rela-
tions between medieval Germany and the Latin world. He edited two texts for Basse
as an aspiring young scholar in 1841, but also Li Romans des sept sages and other medi-
eval French texts, the Romancero del Cid, translated Kudrun, became professor and
university librarian at Tübingen in 1844 and ultimately rector of that university in

Thus the suddenly burgeoning concept and paradigm of the ‘national

literature’ coincides not only with the incipience of the European nation-
state but also with the professionalization of literary and historical schol-
arship in that state’s newly provided or refurbished academic institutions.
However, much as the nationalization of literature involved conflicts
between competing nationalities, so too the professionalization of literary
and philological scholarship involved bitter demarcation quarrels.
The most famous of these is the show-down between Jacob Grimm
(1785-1863) and August Heinrich von der Hagen (1780-1856).6 The
latter, less famous nowadays, was the first to publish an edition of the
Nibelungen, in 1807, with a famously nationalistic, rousing preface, ad-
dressing the German nation at the nadir of its infamy (the Holy Roman
Empire having just been abolished under Napoleonic pressure), and
offering the heroic ancestral tale to the public as a promise of national
resurgence. Hagen went on to be appointed supernumerary professor of
German literature at Berlin when that University was founded in 1810;
as such he was the first to pursue the study of old German within an
academic appointment. He was called to Breslau in 1811 but recalled to
Berlin as ordinary professor in 1821, and later published further versions
of the Nibelungen, as well as an edition of the corpus of courtly love
poets, Minnesänger. However, his editorial procedure was considered
hasty and shallow by the more slow-working and painstaking Grimm,
who appears also to have suffered from a severe dose of sour grapes
(Grimm was a subaltern drudge in the Kassel court library, and his own
professional advance did not come until 1830 when he was appointed to
a chair at Göttingen). Specifically around the Nibelungen a veritable edito-
rial war took place (cf. generally Ehrismann 1975). Grimm’s ally Lach-
mann, a highly respected classical and biblical scholar, denounced
Hagen’s edition and went on to provide his own counterversion (charac-
teristically claiming, in ‘critical’-editorial fashion, that the text was a com-
posite of various older episodes and could be deconstructed into its
component parts). Quarrels also arose over the question to which extent
the text should be made palatable to contemporary readers by moderniz-
ing or updating it. Lachmann and Grimm scorned this as an unscholarly
and populist adulteration of the original’s integrity. The sheer bulk and
intensity of the nineteenth-century German reception of the Nibelungen

Among the existing studies of emerging Germanistik, see Bluhm 1997, Kolk 1990,
Schmidt 2000, Wyss 1979.
312 Joep Leerssen

was thus impelled by the unabating ardour of scholarly rivalry; to the

extent that, when the fourth centenary of Gutenberg invention of print
was celebrated in 1840, the national-bibliophile prestige publication to
mark the occasion was Lachmann’s Zwanzig alte Lieder von den Nibelungen,
Zur vierhundertjährigen Jubelfeier der Erfindung der Buchdruckerkunst, and Von
der Hagen countered two years later with Der Nibelungen Lied in der alten
vollendeten Gestalt, with many illustrations and aimed at the wider public.
Von der Hagen called it ‘an inexpensive edition of the ancient epic poem
in its original language printed in the traditional letters, and also a popu-
lar update’ – the phrase containing a dig at Lachmann’s and Grimm’s
academic habit of printing German, not in the usual ‘Gothic’ Fraktur
font, but in roman lettering and without capitalization of nouns.7 (Nor
was this a purely German aberration. The choice of old-style or modern
font also played a role among English philologists in what is now known
as the ‘Anglo-Saxon controversy’: cf. Aarsleff 1967).
Thus, even within the shared national and nationalistic ambience of
German philology, the appropriation of ancient texts was a matter of
ardent competition. Although there was a veritable damburst of new
material being retrieved for publication, there was still a sense of ‘limited
supply’, and scholars competed for the honour of bringing out a text or
author. A goldrush-style race for the best and most prestigious sources
took place. In competing presentations of ancient texts like the Edda,
Otfried, Reynard the Fox, Kudrun or Heliand the philologist jostled for
primacy. Manuscripts or fragments were jealously kept from sight so as
to thwart the work of rivals; tips as to newly discovered documents were
snatched up so as to take the wind out of a competitors’ sails; letters
were mysteriously misdelivered, queries went unanswered owing to
curious ‘misunderstandings’, and the reviews that the scholars gave to
each others’ work were carping and partizan. Editorial technique was
always a Procrustes’s bed: diplomatic editions were criticized for being a
facile, antiquarian reproduction of the original; critical editions were
accused of interventionist meddling in the text. And if there was no
international rivalry (as was often the case, given the national indistinct-
ness of textual material like Reynard the Fox, or authors like Veldeke; cf
Leerssen 2006), then there was always the contested high ground of

Thus on the title page; in the original: ‘wohlfeile Ausgabe des alten Heldenliedes
in der Ursprache mit der alterthümlichen Schrift gedruckt, so wie eine volksmässige
Erneuung desselben’.

academic respectability as opposed to amateurish populism. Scholars

were always torn between the ambition for academic, or else wider
social-political recognition.
Unfortunately for Basse, the top philologists (Benecke, Lachmann,
the Grimm brothers, Hagen) seem to have found it slightly beneath their
dignity to work for a publisher aiming for the popular end of the market.
The most famous names that Basse was able to enlist were those of
Hans Ferdinand Massmann, in later years Ludwig Ettmüller, and (a
once-off occasion) Franz Josef Mone. Massmann (1797-1874) edited five
volumes for Basse’s series between 1837 and 1843; at that time he held a
chair of Old German literature at the Munich military academy, having
previously been entrusted with a mission to Milan in 1833 by the Bavar-
ian government concerning the Gothic fragments discovered there by
Angelo Mai. Besides the Basse volumes he brought out editions of
Gottfried von Strasburg’s Tristan und Isolde and Tacitus’ Germania. Mass-
mann is a good example of the interaction between academic and politi-
cal nationalism: he was an egregious exponent of the nationalist sports
clubs founded by Friedrich Jahn under the name of Turnvereine, and
indeed started his career at the Munich military academy as gymnastics
instructor; he was also the inventor of the movement’s slogan Frisch,
fromm, froh, frei. Ludwig Ettmüller (1802-1877) published six volumes
with Basse between 1839 and 1852, while a teacher of German literature
at the Zurich Gymnasium (he would be appointed professor at Zurich
university in 1863). He gave a number of medieval text editions, notably
of Veldeke’s Eneit and of Kudrun (which, in Lachmannian style, he edited
as a cluster of interlinked Lieder). Ettmüller’s work was strongly pan-
Germanic, and stressed links with Anglo-Saxon and with Nordic material
(Völuspá, Edda). Mone, finally (1796-1871), published a collection of
ancient plays for Basse’s Bibliothek. An adept of Grimm, he started his
career as university librarian and history professor at Heidelberg, briefly
taught at the University of Louvain (where he brought out a history of
Netherlandic literature) and ended his career as archive director in Karls-
Even in its twilight years, the series was still able to pull in some able
philologists: Heinrich Rückert and Karl Bartsch. They edited three vol-
umes each during the 1850s. Rückert (1823-1875) held a professorial
chair at Breslau as of 1852, and was known for his sweeping historio-
graphical works; Bartsch (1832-1888) was appointed professor of Ger-
314 Joep Leerssen

man Philology at Rostock in 1858 after having previously been librarian

of the (then recently founded) Germanic National Museum of Nurem-
Despite such collaborators, however, Basse’s venture flapped its
wings rather than that it flew. It was looked upon with scorn by the high-
minded scientific philologists, who remembered Basse as a lower-eche-
lon publisher of cheap reading, and who felt that the business of philo-
logical retrieval and editing was demeaned by this series. Letters from
Wilhelm Grimm and Lachmann were stand-offish to the point of rude-
ness, reviews cool to hostile; witness Jacob Grimm’s reaction to Basse’s
original prospectus:
Welchen text z.b. des Ulfilas und Otfried denkt hr. Basse zu liefern? (...) hat
er gelehrte für neue critische bearbeitungen beider werke zur hand? davon
verlautet das geringste nicht. er wird also von Ulfilas, von Otfried, wie von
Parzival, Iwein, den Nibelungen und einer menge andern ablassen müssen;
dann aber bleibt der an sich schon geschmacklose titel seiner sammlung
vollends unschicklich.8
The suspicious tone in this dour notice was amplified in an unfortunate
scandal in 1838, when Basse’s associate Ziemann (1807-1842, editor of
the series’ first volume Gudrun; an admirer of Grimm and Lachmann but
cold-shouldered by them) was publicly accused of plagiarism by Lach-
mann’s protégé Wilhelm Wackernagel; an incident which illustrates how
closely interconnected the concepts of authorial originality and profes-
sional authority were by now.
The series never quite managed to ovecome its reputation linking
commercialism and amateurishness. Massmann and Ettmüller were B-list
celebrities in the junior stages of their careers, and dropped the connec-
tion after a while; Mone, Rückert and Bartsch were working from periph-
eral universities. The Bibliothek was an uneven mixture of canonical
classics and MS oddities, of professional academics, local erudites,9 and

Grimm 1864-90, 5: 285: ‘Which text of, say, Wulfilas’s Gothic Bible, or Otfried,
does Mr. Basse propose to furnish? Does he have scholars at his disposal for fresh
critical renditions of those works? The prospectus breathes no word of it. So he
cannot include [i.e. plagiaristically reprint, JL] existing editions like Wulfilas, Otfried, or
for that matter Parsifal, Yvain, the Nibelungen and many others. And that renders his
series title, tasteless as it is anyway, wholly unseemly.’
An intriguing presence in the series is that of Albert Schulz (1802-1893), a private
scholar who wrote under the pen-name ‘San-Marte’ and who more or less single-
handedly filled the entire ‘second series’ between 1842 and 1872 (when he brought out

occasionally cranks like Karl Roth, who imposed his own eccentric or-
thography and typography on the long-suffering printer.
Seen as a whole, however, the sum of many decades of dogged
persistence and never-quite-making-it, Basse’s Bibliothek der gesammten
deutschen National-Literatur testifies to the triumph of the national-literary
paradigm: the idea that each nation has, in its own language, a literary
inheritance that is uniquely its own, and that this canon can be called a
national literature. What is more, the series bespeaks a sense that this na-
tional canon is a matter of contemporary, public interest for the general
reading public and that it can be, and should be, made available in print.
Yet, while the series exemplifies the interesting conjunction between the
rise of medieval philology, the rise of nationalism and the rise of the
commerical book-trade, it also proves that the appropriation of the na-
tional past was a process where national and professional jealousies
placed a heavy mortgage on the materials that were coming to light.

Appendix: The ‘Bibliothek der gesammten deutschen National-Literatur’

As can be seen from the list below, the publication frequency is uneven.
22 volumes appeared 1835-1845; a further 13 volumes 1847-1853; fi-
nally (after a lapse of four years) a final 4 volumes 1858-1861. The peak
year was 1839 when 5 volumes appeared.

first series
1 Kudrun (A. Ziemann, 1835)
2 Theuerdank (C. Haltaus, 1836)
3 Deutsche Gedichte des 12. Jahrhunderts (H.F. Massmann, 1837)
4 Kaiserchronik (H.F. Massmann, 1849)
5 Herbort’s von Fritzlar Liet von Troye (G.K. Frommann, 1837)
6 Eraclius (H.F. Massmann, 1842)
7 Die deutschen Abschwörungs-, Glaubens-, Beicht- und Betformeln (Massmann, 1839)
8 Liederbuch der Clara Hätzlerin (C. Haltaus, 1840)
9 Sanct Alexius Leben (H.F. Massmann, 1843)
10 Deutsche Interlinearversionen der Psalmen (E.G. Graff, 1839)
11a Deütsche Predigten des XII. und XIII. Jahrhundertes (K. Roth, 1839)
11b Deutsche Predigten des XIII. und XIV. Jh. (H. Leyser, 1838)

the final volumes and the entire enterprise wound down). Schulz’s main interest was
medieval romance, especially the matière de Bretagne; a comparative essay on the spread
of Arthurian themes from Wales to the Continent had won a prize at the Abergavenny
eisteddfod of 1839. On this Celtological cross-current, see Williams 1859; other entrants
for the same prize essay are mentioned there and in Constantine 2007.
316 Joep Leerssen

12 Flore und Blanschefleur (E. Sommer, 1846)

13 Otte mit dem Barte von Cuonrat von Würzeburc (K.A. Hahn, 1838)
14 Etter Heini uss dem Schwizerland (H.M. Kottinger, 1847)
15 Auswahl der Minnesänger für Vorlesungen & zum Schulgebrauch (K. Volckmar,
16 Frauenlob (L. Ettmüller, 1843)
17 Das Narrenschiff von Sebastian Brant (A. Walther, 1839)
18 Kleinere gedichte von dem Stricker (K.A. Hahn, 1839)
19 Heinrich’s von Krolewiz ûz Missen Vater unser (G.Chr.Fr. Lisch, 1839)
20 Gedichte des XII. und XIII. Jahrhunderts (K.A. Hahn, 1840)
21 Altteütsche Schauspiele (F.J. Mone, 1841)
22 Dyocletianus Leben von Hans von Bühel (A. Keller, 1841)
23 Gesta Romanorum, das ist Der Rœmer Tat (A. Keller, 1841)
24 Der jüngere Titurel (K.A. Hahn, 1842)
25 Annolied (H.E. Bezzenberger, 1848)
26 Jacob Ruffs Adam und Heva (H.M. Kottinger, 1848)
27 Theophilus, der Faust des Mittelalters (L. Ettmüller, 1849)
28 Engla and Seaxna scôpas and bôceras (L. Ettmüller, 1850)
29 Vorda vealhstôd Engla and Seaxna (L. Ettmüller, 1851)
30 Der wälsche Gast des Thomasin von Zirclaria (H. Rückert, 1852)
31 Dat Spil fan der Upstandinge (L. Ettmüller, 1851)
32 Das Passional (Fr.K. Köpke, 1852)
33 Des Fürsten von Rügen Wizlâw’s des Vierten Sprüche und Lieder (L. Ettmuller,
34 Bruder Philipps des Carthusers Marienleben (H. Rückert, 1853)
35 Karl der Grosse von dem Stricker (K. Bartsch, 1857)
36 Lohengrin (H. Rückert, 1858)
37 Die Erlösung (K. Bartsch, 1858)
38 Albrecht von Halberstadt und Ovid im Mittelalter (K. Bartsch, 1861)
39 Heinrich und Kunegunde von Ebernand von Erfurt (R. Bechstein, 1860)

second series
1 F.J. Mone, Untersuchungen zur geschichte der teutschen heldensage, 1836.
2 A. Schulz, Die Arthur-Sage und die Mährchen des Rothen Buchs von Hergest, 1842.
3 A. Schulz, Beiträge zur bretonischen und celtisch-germanischen Heldensage1847.
4 A. Schulz, Zur Waffenkunde des lteren deutschen Mittelalters, 1867.
5 A. Schulz, Über Wolfram’s von Eschenbach Rittergedicht Wilhelm von Orange, 1871.
6 A. Schulz, Rückblicke auf Dichtungen und Sagen des deutschen Mittelalters, 1872.

third series
1 A. Ziemann, Mittelhochdeutsches Wörterbuch zum Handgebrauch, 1838.
2 A. Schulz, Reimregister zu den Werken Wolframs von Eschenbach, 1867.

Aarsleff, Hans. 1967. The Study of Language in England, 1780-1860. Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press.
AdB. 1875-1912.Allgemeine deutsche Biographie: Auf Veranlassung und mit Unter-
stützung seiner Majestät des Königs von Bayern herausgegeben durch die Commission der
Königl. Akademie der Wissenschaften.56 vols; Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot;
also online at
Arnold, Sven, ed. 1991. Literarische Gesellschaften in Deutschland: Ein Handbuch mit
Einzeldarstellungen in Texten und Bildern. Berlin: Argon.
Bluhm, Lothar. 1997. Die Brüder Grimm und der Beginn der Deutschen Philologie: Eine
Studie zu Kommunikation und Wissenschaftsbildung im frühen 19. Jahrhundert.
Hildesheim: Weidmann.
Constantine, Mary-Ann. 2007. The Truth against the World: Iolo Morganwg and
Romantic Forgery. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.
Dammann, Oswald. 1924. Aus den Papieren der Basseschen Buchhandlung: Ein Beitrag
zur Frühgeschichte der deutschen Philologie. Jena: Frommann.
Ehrismann, Otfrid. 1975. Das Nibelungenlied in Deutschland. Studien zur Rezeption
des Nibelungenlieds von der Mitte des 18. Jahrhunderts bis zum Ersten Weltkrieg.
München: Fink.
Ferris, Ina. 2005. Printing the Past: Walter Scott’s Bannatyne Club and the
Antiquarian Document. Romanticism 11.2: 143-160.
Fischer, Hermann. 1914. Der Literarische Verein in Stuttgart-Tübingen. Die
Geisteswissenschaften 1: 1073-1075
Grimm, Jacob. 1864-90. Kleinere Schriften. 8 vols; Berlin & Gütersloh.
Kolk, Rainer. 1990. Berlin oder Leipzig? Eine Studie zur sozialen Organisation der
Germanistik im ‘Nibelungenstreit’. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
Leerssen, Joep. 1996. Remembrance and Imagination: Patterns in the Historical and
Literary Representation of Ireland in the Nineteenth Century. Cork: Cork University
Leerssen, Joep. 2006. De bronnen van het vaderland: Taal, literatuur en de afbakening
van Nederland, 1806-1890. Nijmegen: Vantilt.
Murray, Damien. 2000. Romanticism, Nationalism and Irish Antiquarian Societies,
1840-80. National University of Ireland (Maynooth): Department of Old
and Middle Irish.
Ridoux, Charles. 2001. Évolution des études médiévales en France de 1860 à 1914.
Paris: Champion.
Schmidt, Thomas. 2000. Deutsche National-Philologie oder Neuphilologie in
Deutschland? Internationalität und Interdisziplinarität in der Frühgeschichte
der Germanistik. In Internationalität nationaler Literaturen. Beiträge zum ersten
Symposion des Göttinger Sonderforschungsbereich 529, ed. U. Schöning, 311-340.
Göttingen: Wallstein.
Williams, Jane, ed. 1859. The Literary Remains of the Rev. Thomas Price,
Carnhuanawc. 2 vols. Llandovery & London.
Wyss, Ulrich. 1979. Die wilde Philologie: Jacob Grimm und der Historismus. München:
The Case for Latvia
Disinformation Campaigns
Against a Small Nation

Fourteen Hard Questions and Straight

Answers about a Baltic Country
Jukka Rislakki

What do we know about Latvia and the


Latvians? A Baltic (not Balkan) nation

that emerged from fifty years under the
Soviet Union – interrupted by a brief

but brutal Nazi-German occupation and

a devastating war – now a member of
the European Union and NATO. Yes, but
what else? Relentless accusations keep
appearing, especially in Russian media, often
repeated in the West: “Latvian soldiers
single-handedly saved Lenin’s revolution in
1917”, “Latvians killed Tsar Nikolai II and
the Royal family”, “Latvia was a thoroughly
anti-Semitic country and Latvians started
killing Jews even before the Germans arrived in 1941”, “Nazi revival is rampant
in today’s Latvia”, “The Russian minority is persecuted in Latvia. . .”
True, false or in-between? The Finnish journalist and author Jukka Rislakki
Amsterdam/New York, NY, examines charges like these and provides an outline of Latvia’s recent history
2008 295 pp. while attempting to separate documented historical fact from misinformation
(On the Boundary of Two and deliberate disinformation. His analysis helps to explain why the Baltic States
Worlds. Identity, Freedom, (population 7 million) consistently top the enemy lists in public opinion polls of
and Moral Imagination in Russia (143 million). His knowledge of the Baltic languages allows him to make
the Baltics 15) use of local sources and up-to-date historical research. He is a former Baltic
Bound € 60 / US$ 90 States correspondent for Finland’s largest daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat
ISBN: 9789042024236 and the author of several books on Finnish and Latvian history. As a neutral,
Paper € 29 / US$ 44 experienced and often critical observer, Rislakki is uniquely qualified for the task
ISBN: 9789042024243 of separating truth from fiction.

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Exile Cultures,

Misplaced Identities

Edited by Paul Allatson and Jo McCormack

d o

Exile Cultures, Misplaced Identities takes a

transnational and transcultural approach
to exile and its capacities to alter the
ways we think about place and identity

in the contemporary world. The edited

collection brings together researchers on
exile in international perspective from

three continents who explore questions of

exilic identity along multiple geopolitical
and cultural axes—Cuba, the USA and
Australia; Colombia and the USA; Algeria
and France; Italy, France and Mexico;
non-Han minorities and Han majorities
in China; China, Tibet and India; Japan
and China; New Caledonia, Vietnam
and France; Hungary, the USSR, and Australia; and Germany, before and
after unification. The international and crosscultural span of this collection
represents an important addition to the fields of exile criticism and cultural
identity studies. Exile Cultures, Misplaced Identities will be of interest to
readers, scholars and students of exile, diasporic and transmigration studies,
international studies, postcolonial studies, cultural studies, language studies,
and comparative literary studies.

Amsterdam/New York, NY,

2008 319 pp.
(Critical Studies 30)
Bound € 64 / US$ 96
ISBN: 9789042024069

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Borderless Beckett

Beckett sans frontières


Edited by / Édité par Minako Okamuro, Naoya Mori,

Bruno Clément, Sjef Houppermans, Angela Moorjani and

Anthony Uhlmann

SBT/A 19 features selected papers from

the Borderless Beckett / Beckett sans
frontières Symposium held in Tokyo at

Waseda University in 2006. The essays

penned by eminent and young scholars
from around the world examine the
many ways Beckett’s art crosses borders:

coupling reality and dream, life and

death, as in Japanese Noh drama, or
transgressing distinctions between limits
and limitlessness; humans, animals, virtual
bodies, and stones; French and English;
words and silence; and the received
frameworks of philosophy and aesthetics.

The highlight of the volume is the

contribution by Nobel Laureate J. M. Coetzee, the special guest of the
Symposium. His article entitled “Eight Ways of Looking at Samuel Beckett”
introduces a variety of novel approaches to Beckett, ranging from a
comparative analysis of his work and Melville’s Moby Dick to a biographical
observation concerning Beckett’s application for a lectureship at a South
African university. Other highlights include innovative essays by the plenary
speakers and panelists – Enoch Brater, Mary Bryden, Bruno Clément, Steven
Amsterdam/New York, NY, Connor, S. E. Gontarski, Evelyne Grossman, and Angela Moorjani – and an
2008 468 pp. illuminating section on Beckett’s television dramas.
(Samuel Beckett
Today/Aujourd’hui 19) The Borderless Beckett volume renews our awareness of the admirable
Bound € 94 / US$ 141
quality and wide range of approaches that characterize Beckett studies.
ISBN: 9789042023932

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Names of Nihil

Arvydas Šliogeris
Translated from Lithuanian by Robertas Beinartas
Preface by Leonidas Donskis

In this book, probably for the first


time in Western philosophy, an attempt

has been made to point out and
systematically explicate the problem scope

of the Nothing (which is called Nihil

in the book) and to try to explain the
springhead of the excessive negativity,
inherent only in the human being, or

in other words, the springhead of the

human’s natural nihilism. Nihilism is
treated here not as a posture, pose, or
an ideological attitude, but as the spread
of the human metaphysical nucleus, of
Nihil. Nihilistic annihilation, manifesting
itself as the road of the naming of Nihil
and of the production of thingly crystals
(artificial world) as a result of that naming, usually is called “history”.
Names of Nihil (language phenomena), being the antithesis of Nihil, falsify
and cover up Nihil itself, turning it into “supreme” being, e.g. into “the
One”, “God”, “Substance”, “Matter”, “Spirit”, ad infinitum. This book should
be interesting not only to philosophers or humanitarians, but also to all
those who concern themselves with the total human condition.
Amsterdam/New York, NY,
2008 X-136 pp.
(On the Boundary of Two
Worlds: Identity, Freedom,
and Moral Imagination in
the Baltics 14)
Paper € 30 / US$ 45
ISBN: 9789042024021

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History and Cultural Memory of


German Left-Wing Terrorism

Edited by

Gerrit-Jan Berendse
and Ingo Cornils

This volume is dedicated to the study

of artistic and historical documents that
recall German left-wing terrorism in the

1970s. It is intended to contribute to a

better understanding of this violent epoch
in Germany’s recent past and the many
ways it is remembered.
The cultural memory of the RAF past
is a useful device to disentangle the
complex relationship between terror
and the arts. This bond has become a
particular pressing matter in an era of
a new, so-called global terrorism when the culture industry is obviously
fascinated with terror.
Fourteen scholars of visual cultures and contemporary literature offer
in-depth investigations into the artistic process of engaging with West
Germany’s era of political violence in the 1970s. The assessments are
framed by two essays from historians: one looks back at the previously
ignored anti-Semitic context of 1970s terrorism, the other offers a thought-
Amsterdam/New York, NY, provoking epilogue on the extension of the so-called Stammheim syndrome
2008 345 pp. to the debate on the treatment of prisoners in Guantánamo Bay. The
(German Monitor 70) contributions on cultural memory argue that any future memory of German
Bound € 70 / US$ 105 left-wing terrorism will need to acknowledge the inseparable bond between
ISBN: 9789042023918 terror and the artistic response it produces.

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Territories of Evil

Edited by Nancy Billias

o p

Evil is not only an abstract concept to

be analyzed intellectually, but a concrete

reality that we all experience and wrestle

with on an ongoing basis. To truly
understand evil we must always approach

it from both angles: the intellective and

the phenomenological. This same assertion
resounds through each of the papers in
this volume, in which an interdisciplinary

and international group (including nurses,

psychologists, philosophers, professors
of literature, history, computer studies,
and all sorts of social science) presented
papers on cannibalism, the Holocaust,
terrorism, physical and emotional abuse,
virtual and actual violence, and depravity in a variety of media, from film
to literature to animé to the Internet. Conference participants discussed
villains and victims, dictators and anti-heroes, from 921 AD to the present,
and considered the future of evil from a number of theoretical perspectives.
Personal encounters with evil were described and analyzed, from interviews
with political leaders to the problems of locating and destroying land mines
in previous war zones. The theme of responsibility and thinking for the
future is very much at the heart of these papers: how to approach evil as
a question to be explored, critiqued, interrogated, reflected upon, owned.
The authors urge an attitude of openness to new interpretations, new
Amsterdam/New York, NY, perspectives, new understanding. This may not be a comfortable process;
2008 VII-254 pp. it may in fact be quite disturbing. But ultimately, it may be the only
(At the Interface/Probing way forward towards a truly ethical response. The papers in this collection
the Boundaries 45)
provide a wealth of food for thought on this most important question.
Paperback € 52 / US$ 78
ISBN: 9789042023697

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